Archive for April, 2010

Should CIOs Be Generalists or Specialists?

April 12, 2010

SHOULD CIOs (Chief Information Officers) BE GENERALISTS or SPECIALISTS ?

Article from ITBusinessEdge.com , by Ann All (from her IT Bus.Edge. Blog, dated Mar 15, 2010)

I think there may be a new hot dialogue brewing around the CIO role, one along the lines of whether the actual CIO title needs to change to better reflect the role’s responsibilities or whether the CIO is the best person to lead process improvement initiatives.

Last week I asked University of Kentucky CIO Vince Kellen whether CIOs would remain generalists, leading business technology initiatives in different industries, or whether we’d start to see more specialization, with CIOs spending bigger chunks of their careers within specific verticals.

Before coming to the University of Kentucky, Kellen served as VP of Information Services for DePaul University. (He’s also a consultant with the Cutter Consortium.) His opinion:

“Once you’re a CIO in a vertical, it’s hard to leave that vertical. Your value to the vertical is very important, especially if you’re good at the business stuff. You know so much about your industry, you’ll be valuable to competitors, too. At the highest levels of executive leadership, you’ve got to be deeply concerned about your industry, the industry your company works in.”

The view was supported by IT Business Edge’s Mike Vizard during a presentation he gave this morning at the inaugural ITBE-sponsored Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando. (Yes, I’m writing that up now instead of catching some sun on the pool deck.) Vizard told attendees:

“People think you can run IT at a fruit company and then run IT at a chemical company. I’d argue that’s insane. That’s why business people begin to see IT as a utility. When I talk to CIOs, many of them have more loyalty to IT than to the industry they are working in. I think you add more value if you become a specialist. That’s how you make IT integral to the business.”

During the Q&A session, one of the attendees said he addressed this issue by assuming leadership and responsibility for the overall IT function and appointing chief operating officers within IT to deal more directly with business-specific issues. Close communication with these internal COOs is important, he said.

Some other interesting thoughts from Vizard’s presentation:

IT executives need to begin assigning value to the data within their organizations instead of treating it all the same way in terms of where it’s stored and how it’s used. Too many IT departments manage data without understanding its importance, he said, which creates “one of the big disconnects between the business and IT.” About two months ago, I wrote about the need for IT departments to assume a stronger role in data governance. Last week Vizard wrote about  a new class of data governance tools that allow IT organizations to manage datawhile giving business users responsibility for actually delegating who has the right to access that information, offering Courion’s Access Assurance Suite 8.0. as one example.

Why does the business hate IT, Vizard asked. His answer: “You ask them to bend to the way your software works.” What the business really wants is for IT to be able to pull together core components to support their processes in three months or less instead of 18 months, he said. With virtualization, cloud computing and other emerging technologies, Vizard said pieces of an eventual strategy for doing this are beginning to come together. Like other observers, he envisions a hybrid model in which certain applications will move to the cloud while others remain on-premise. But even those that remain on-premise must become more modular, he said.

IT can’t win if it doesn’t start automating more processes, and that includes its own internal processes, Vizard said. “I can’t understand why IT is used to automate all sorts of processes except those in IT.” He acknowledged that internal politics and fear of losing IT jobs played a part but urged IT leaders not to let those concerns hold them back. “You need to determine how you can shift your staff to activities that add real value to the business,” he said.

Consumer technology is shaping folks’ view of internal IT, and that’s not a bad thing. He asked how many attendees supported engineers. When several hands went up, he said, “We all know they’re the biggest pain in the butt to support because they think they know more than you do.” That’s essentially what’s beginning to happen throughout organizations as users become more tech savvy, creating headaches for IT personnel worried about breaches of security and other issues. But, said Vizard, “I’d rather have somebody interested and dangerous than ignorant and useless.”

He offered Citibank as organization that’s come up with an interesting way to educate its business leaders about IT, by hosting an annual “IT Fair,” in which IT personnel demonstrate technologies for business folks. That helps create what Vizard called the “Tom Sawyer syndrome.” That is, “You show them the technology and get them to paint the fence.” He added, “Taking them out of their box and showing them different ways to approach things, using technology, is part of your job.”

A good CIO not only takes it upon himself to rearchitect business processes, he empowers his staff to do so as well, Vizard said. Instead of just thinking of themselves as support staff, IT pros should be encouraged to always look for opportunities for process improvement. A good way to start, he suggested, is by asking staff to help improve internal IT processes, then having them take those skills out to the broader business.

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Note: These statements exemplify, and compare, “the conditions and situations”: 1) when OB/OD Academics, acting as “generalists” suggest “organizational process” resolutions, and 2)  when Business Management technical specialists and administrators performing as “operational specialists” are accountable for expenditures and actual results. (This comment added by CBLegray@aol.com, Blog owner, to clarify “purpose of placement” here).

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Fighting Fragmentation

April 12, 2010

FIGHTING FRAGMENTATION-
Integrated technology solutions are driving an AEC revolution.

By Richard Sappé*
(a CE NEWS article, April 2010 issue » Features » BUSINESS STRATEGIES)

CE = Civil Engineering
NRC = National Research Council (in article)
NRC = Nuclear Regulatory Commission (was AEC)
AEC = Atomic Energy Commission (now the NRC) AEC = Architecture, Engineering, & Construction
(Acronyms added by CBLG as the article is equally applicable to “either” AEC, or the NRC ).

Capital asset delivery projects and programs of all sizes and types continue to suffer from low productivity and high failure rates. The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry remains highly fragmented, and even with preferred vendor programs, each project features a new blend of players. This fragmentation hinders development of standardized processes for an integrated capital asset supply chain based on effective and efficient collaboration. Project risk avoidance, rather than maximizing the lifecycle value of a capital asset, remains the paradigm for the majority of the AEC industry. Many industry players adopt a hunker down approach — especially during a downturn — that further reduces efficiency and productivity on project delivery, and takes the focus off enhancing capital asset value.

In a 2009 report, “Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry,” the National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC) identified five interrelated activities for capital facilities and infrastructure that will help achieve the following:
• overcome fragmentation by requiring greater collaboration up front among project stakeholders;
• lead to more efficient use and better integration of people, processes, materials, and equipment through all phases of a construction project; and
• create more useful and accurate information for development of performance measures that can facilitate innovation in technologies and materials and improvement in products and processes.
The first activity the NRC recommends is “widespread deployment and use of interoperable technology applications.” Among numerous other identified benefits, interoperable technologies can help “through more collaborative processes and an emphasis on planning up front … improve the quality and speed of project-related decision making; integrate processes, supply chains, and work flow sequencing; improve data accuracy and reduce the time spent on data entry; and reduce design and engineering conflicts and the subsequent need for rework.”
A small but growing community of owners, contractors, and engineering/design firms have already adopted this principle and together have begun integrating project stakeholders, project processes, and project technology to improve project productivity and long-term capital asset value. These organizations are leading the charge in highly collaborative delivery methodologies such as Integrated Project Delivery and efficiency-maximizing Lean construction. And they are leading the way in adopting AEC-specific and highly collaborative technology solutions for Virtual Design and Construction and Integrated Program Management.
To eliminate silos of people, process, and information, these organizations focus on collaboration, standardization, and integration, and trade an antagonistic project delivery model of risk shedding for a collaborative project delivery model driven by project success metrics. A holistic application technology strategy plays a critical role in this, as technology should break down the silos of information and data, enable effective collaboration, provide specific AEC functionality across the full project lifecycle, and provide scalability from the project level to the enterprise level. Leading technology vendors embrace this approach and base their solution strategies on completeness of AEC functionality, scalability, and interoperability.
Complete AEC solution 
A key to successful project delivery is the earliest possible collaboration across stakeholders during project delivery. This requires that project stakeholders share information from their respective areas of expertise as completely and as early as possible. An AEC firm’s technology strategy must therefore take into account not only that firm’s specific functional requirements, but also the requirements of the entire project delivery lifecycle. The complete AEC solution environment extends across all aspects of the capital delivery lifecycle, including funding and budgeting, design, estimating and scheduling, resource management, construction management, procurement, and accounting. An AEC firm’s technology strategy must take into account this complete solution environment, even in those instances where that firm’s use of a particular technology is minimal.
Also, to maximize project productivity and capital asset value, it is important to clearly understand the potential impacts of project decisions before taking them. The key to achieving this is through early and continuous information sharing during pre-construction and construction, application-driven analysis of project forecasts, and continuous monitoring of project- and facility-performance metrics. It is therefore important to understand clearly which data from differing functional areas reside in which systems. Based on this understanding, firms should then identify which systems contribute to the collaboration requirements within and across organizations, and which integration approaches can best serve the needs of the project team as a whole.
Scalability — Full project collaboration requires getting the right information to the right people at the right time. In addition to considering the complete AEC solution environment, the scalability of AEC technology becomes critical. Deploying new technology and collaboration systems for each project simply does not scale, and it quickly becomes a costly and administrative headache.
Therefore, an organization’s technology strategy should aim to pursue scalable systems that can:
• grow from a project level to an enterprise level within the organization;
• readily integrate with the systems of a diverse array of outside stakeholders; and
• maintain cross-project and stakeholder data integrity and security.
Technologies that can scale across projects and organizations provide a means to greater transparency and efficiency. They also form the foundation for effective collaboration across stakeholders through data and access security and easier system administration.
Interoperability — Interoperability of application technology is key to supporting enhanced collaboration and productivity and eliminating the costs of double data entry and data errors. Ready interoperability between key AEC technologies provides for greater accuracy of information, streamlined internal processes, elimination of rework, and also a lower total cost of technology ownership for each firm.
To achieve interoperability, AEC technology strategies must look beyond file compatibility and import/export mechanisms. This approach is functionally limited, saps valuable time and resources, and does not meet the needs of highly collaborative projects. While document and file management and control will remain a key component of project delivery technology, interoperability shifts the focus toward data integration strategies to cut out import/export and file management steps.
Many AEC technology solutions today offer Application Programming Interfaces (API) that enable custom data integrations to and from other systems. While API-built integrations are dynamic in data exchange, they are very specific to the systems involved, and do not readily extend to systems beyond any one organization’s setup. As such, the cross organizational requirements of collaborative projects cannot readily be met by APIs alone.
Web services, or Web APIs, do provide a measure of flexibility by enabling integrations and access to remote systems — for instance, two Web-based applications hosted on disparate networks. However, as with API-driven integrations, Web-services-based integrations are also highly specific, and each project, or each new project team, faces the integration setup challenge anew.
Leading AEC technology vendors now offer out-of-the-box integrations between AEC solutions, including integrations to and from other vendors’ solutions. The benefits of out-of-the-box integrations are ease-of-use and implementation, greater applicability across project stakeholders, speed of implementation for new projects/systems, and a lower total cost of ownership, since the vendor maintains the integration rather than the user. The limitation of out-of-the-box integration is the scope of solutions a given vendor considers and for which it develops out-of-the-box integrations.
A current industry movement with great promise is standards-based interoperability. Several organizations — such as FIATECH (www.fiatech.org) and the National Institute of Building Sciences’ buildingSMART alliance (www.buildingsmartalliance.org) — are working in close collaboration with AEC firms, owners, and technology vendors to develop and publish standards for interoperability specific to the capital asset lifecycle, including all facets of capital asset project delivery. Interoperability standards will provide a single means for any application to share and integrate relevant data across project phases and disciplines. As these standards are published and updated, continued standards support from leading technology vendors will drastically increase interoperability options.
AEC firms need to evaluate their technology strategies hand-in-hand with their processes and personnel across their enterprise. Technology strategies must include dimensions for scalability and interoperability; they can no longer be limited to specific project domain functionality — consider prior and subsequent project phases as well. A technology solution’s ability to provide project-phase specific functionality, enterprise scalability, as well as complete project lifecycle interoperability and collaboration, should increasingly drive implementation decisions.

*Richard Sappé is engineering and construction industry strategist for Oracle’s Primavera Project Portfolio Management group. For more information on integrated technology solutions, visit the Primavera Engineering and Construction Resource Center at http://www.oracle.com/primavera/ec .
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Note: “Balancing Project Priorities” related to Organizational and Operational considerations is applicable when conducting Projects and Programs. (This comment added by CBLegray@aol.com, Blog owner, to clarify “purpose of placement” here).

Age effects on wisdom hold at every level of social class, education, and IQ

April 11, 2010

Grandma was right: With age comes wisdom, University of Michigan researchers find.

Posted: Apr 5, 2010 at 2:56 PM, Apr 5, 2010
WASHINGTON — It turns out grandma was right: Listen to your elders. New research indicates they are indeed wise — in knowing how to deal with conflicts and accepting life’s uncertainties and change.

It isn’t a question of how many facts someone knows, or being able to operate a TV remote, but rather how to handle disagreements — social wisdom.
And researchers led by Richard E. Nisbett of the University of Michigan found that older people were more likely than younger or middle-aged ones to recognize that values differ, to acknowledge uncertainties, to accept that things change over time and to acknowledge others’ points of view.
“Age effects on wisdom hold at every level of social class, education, and IQ,” they report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In modern America, older people generally don’t have greater knowledge about computers and other technology, Nisbett acknowledged, “but our results do indicate that the elderly have some advantages for analysis of social problems.”
“I hope our results will encourage people to assume that older people may have something to contribute for thinking about social problems,” Nisbett said.
In one part of the study the researchers recruited 247 people in Michigan, divided into groups aged 25-to-40, 41-to-59 and 60 plus.
Participants were given fictitious reports about conflict between groups in a foreign country and asked what they thought the outcome would be.
For example, one of the reports said that because of the economic growth of Tajikistan, many people from Kyrgyzstan moved to that country. While Kyrgyz people tried to preserve their customs, Tajiks wanted them to assimilate fully and abandon their customs.
The responses were then rated by researchers who did not know which individual or age group a response came from. Ratings were based on things like searching for compromise, flexibility, taking others’ perspective and searching for conflict resolution.
About 200 of the participants joined in a second session, and a third section was conducted using 141 scholars, psychotherapists, clergy and consulting professionals.
The study concluded that economic status, education and IQ also were significantly related to increased wisdom, but they found that “academics were no wiser than nonacademics” with similar education levels.
While the researchers expected wisdom to increase with age they were surprised at how strong the results were for disputes in society, Nisbett said. “There is a very large advantage for older people over younger people for those.”
Lynn A. Hasher, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, called the study “the single best demonstration of a long-held view that wisdom increases with age.”
“What I think is most important about the paper is that it shows a major benefit that accrues with aging — rather than the mostly loss-based findings reported in psychology. As such, it provides a richer base of understanding of aging processes. It also suggests the critical importance of workplaces’ maintaining the opportunity for older employees to continue to contribute,” said Hasher, who was not part of the research team.
Lead author Nisbett, co-director of the University of Michigan’s Culture and Cognition Program, is 68 and his team of co-authors ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-50s.
The research was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, National Institute on Aging and the National Science Foundation Grant.
AP science writer Randolph E. Schmid, now in his seventh decade, found this research far more compelling than he might have at age 20.

CBLegray’s, CBLG Associates, Blog- Intro

April 11, 2010

This WordPress Blog provides a DIGEST of selected “publicly available” statements and articles- which are especially aligned with, and pertinent to, resolving matters and issues when applying the professional practices discussed in My Linked Profile. In conjunction with my recent personal statements (see my BoxNet files, also), they are intended to facilitate a “gathering” of sufficient understanding which will promote “good faith efforts” towards adding value for progress and societal benefit.