Working Globally

Recently I traveled to India on business. I was out of the office and not in my own bed for two straight weeks. A hardship—hardly. I was very well taken care of all along the way. One of my distinct observations, however, was how many people regularly work in this way. We have a major operation in India and a large number of people who work seamlessly across 12 ½ time zones* to deliver work effectively and efficiently. I had a hard time keeping track of what time it was back home! How do you maintain productivity, sanity and sense of calm all at the same time? My takeaway was that whether we work in one time zone or across 12 ½, the strategies are the same.

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

  • Focus on what’s important: relationships, outcomes and understanding. Maintain your perspective and remember that details can be worked out independently.
  • Have a wide network of resources and use them intelligently.
  • Travel light—edit what you need to reduce the burden.
  • Be efficient—get to “done” and stop. Be realistic and focused.
  • Take care of yourself and maintain your energy, both physically and mentally.

Good lessons all around.

*My friend and co-worker Murali Iyer is one of the masters of working in this way.

Weekly Download 14.8

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Emergent architecture might be the key to closing the gap between business and IT. See Pragmatic new models for enterprise architecture take shape.

Ecosystem View of the Next Generation Enterprise | Circa 2014. Amazing that a single chart can say so much.

25 years of Microsoft Office roadkill. This article’s subhead says it all: “Love it or hate it, Microsoft Office has torn up the competition, leaving all manner of software carrion in its wake.”

Deloitte Consulting picks the brains of three diverse CIOs. CIOs Take Steps to Increase Business Value of IT.

Everyone is jumping on the theme of transformation:




Taking the Sand out of the Gears

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

As an avid cyclist, I know how important it is to maintain my equipment so it will function well and contribute to a smooth ride. Usually that means a few turns of a wrench, regular cleaning and regular lubrication. When you’ve ridden through sand, however, extra TLC is required. Sand is particularly gritty and sticky, which can slow you down and cause excessive wear and tear on the chain and drive train. The remedies include a quick wash, a deep cleaning or replacing the chain. What you can’t do, as a responsible cyclist, is ignore it.

To make an analogy, it’s a problem when sand gets into the gears of our business processes, too. Consider:

  • What slows people down?
  • What creates inefficiency?
  • What is the opportunity cost of not doing something that we know we should do?
  • How much time do we spend coordinating and communicating work unproductively?
  • Do we solve problems as they arise or let them grow?
  • Are we trying to set up others for success or do we only set up barriers?

We’re people. In our daily work (and personal) lives, all of the interactions will create sand and gunk in our minds. It’s a leader’s responsibility to help create an environment where cleaning out the gunk and striving for a smooth journey is the norm. That’s not to say there won’t be bumps along the road. But if you set the bar high and lead in a manner that fosters respect and support, you won’t have to do it alone.

Learn more about a leadership “way of being” in Leadership, Discipline, And Garnering Respect. This brief article reflects on a speech delivered by Major General John M. Schofield, the Superintendent of United States Military Academy, on August 11, 1879. His words have withstood the test of time.




Digital Sweet Spot

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto /

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto /

Digital tools that have gained traction in our personal lives have changed expectations in our work lives. Case in point: recently, the office chorus has been singing, “Why can’t we have video conferencing?” They Skype and FaceTime on their smartphones and tablets while on personal time (and some for work), but the official work options are limited to phone calls, in-person meetings, web-based (non-video supported) meetings.

Meanwhile, all organizations are feeling the constant pressure to grow revenue, innovate and service customers 24 x7, while wrestling with rising costs, increased competition and the churn of both customers and employees.

One component of this pressure is the availability of ways to communicate, collaborate, access information and be productive regardless of time, place or distance. At work, we are constrained by the parameters of standard business hours and work location, available/approved technology and security permissions. It’s a now-common refrain: organizations are entrenched in old-school, highly controlled approaches, while today’s employees want to be trusted and do their work autonomously. Example: Gen X and Y members use a wide variety of social tools to interact with peers, yet organizations largely rely on email, phone and intranets for collaboration.

This tension can’t help but impact the customer experience. Your organization’s customers have the dual perspective of being both individual consumers and employees themselves. They experience the same frustration in their own daily interactions, and, as such, would welcome seamless integration when working with your organization. Like your own employees, your customers won’t appreciate or understand barriers you may have in place that prevent them from doing business with you when they want and how they want. One potential obstacle is the security, confidentiality and required controls over both customer information and communication. This may not always align with what multitasking, tech-savvy employees want in terms of integrated tools for their personal and work lives.

Clearly, consumer and employee experiences have changed and are always changing. Here is a simple framework to think about the “digital sweet spot,” the tipping point where what you deliver and what these constituents expect is in balance.

  Personal or Consumer Experience Employee or Customer Experience
Communication and Collaboration Leverage audio and video tools for live or recorded communication. Personal creation and editing is easy and fun.Document, task, editing, and collaboration tools allow groups to form and work together quickly and efficiently. Are monolithic tools in use?   What vetting process for tools is used?Are they as easy to use outside the office as they are in the office?Can you collaborate with tools other than email? Do you have to be invited to join or are you welcome to participate where you can contribute?
Decision Making Google search for data sources and on-line analytical tools.Crowd-source recommendations based on reviews (e.g. Yelp, Amazon Reviews, Rotten Tomatoes). How long does it take to get access to your enterprise data?Do your suppliers/vendors/partners provide data in an easy to use way? 
Productivity Search YouTube, Kahn Academy, or EdX for just-in-time learning on just about anything.Curated information sources keep you up-to-date on relevant topics.  Can tools be used across multiple devices?Is internal knowledge easily accessed? Is this published for clients and customers?Are internal sources encouraged to contribute their knowledge to open sources? Can customers subscribe to them?

Based on your industry or role, your view of the sweet spot may vary. But be aware—be very aware. If you aren’t hitting the sweet spot, your competitors just might be. That may be just the edge they need to win business in a challenging marketplace.

Creating your own digital sweet spot begins with taking a good hard look at what is possible, then adding a reality check of what is practical. Somewhere in the middle, erring on the side of the customer/employee experience, you’ll be able to engage with these audiences on a new level. The payoff may be increased loyalty from customers and increased job satisfaction from employees. That’s a win-win by any measure.

Weekly Download 14.7

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

An oldie but a goodie. How Change Fails: CEOs Focus On Symptoms NOT The System. Click “next post” on the right of the screen for more from contributor Christine Comaford. Good stuff.

Accenture’s take on the digital decade. A summary of twelve truths and a closer look at truth #4.

McKinsey & Company looks at Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead.

  1. Social
  2. Big data
  3. Internet of things
  4. Anything as a service
  5. Automating knowledge work
  6. Global digital citizens
  7. When digital and physical worlds collide
  8. Personalization and simplification
  9. Digital commerce
  10. Transforming government, healthcare and education


Partly Sunny or Partly Cloudy?

When the Cloud Disappoints

I’m trying to execute a cloud-first strategy. Moving to Microsoft’s Exchange Online seemed like an obvious and relatively safe choice for migrating a major production application (email) to the cloud. Well, it didn’t turn out that way, and I feel like we averted a significant issue. We have now “de-clouded” our email.

Why? Come to find out, currently Microsoft only has a service level based on WEB ONLY ACCESS to the Exchange on-line platform. Those who need to use Outlook (via Outlook Anywhere) or Mobile/Tablet access (via ActiveSync) don’t have any service level guarantees. We experienced significant outages and the error messages created confusion – even among the I.T. team. Therefore, we have chosen to not proceed.

This feels very strange and awkward. How can this be? What could we have done differently? How are others not feeling the same pain? Have we done something incorrectly? Many questions remain unanswered despite our discussions with Microsoft. I’m guessing this won’t be our last “partly cloudy” experience either. All the while I remain committed to the direction and making good choices and learning. We’ll continue on the journey and work our way towards “partly sunny.”

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

Happy 25th! Happy 50th!

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol /

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol /

The World Wide Web has been around for 50% of my years. Yes, happy 50th birthday to me as the Web turns 25. How crazy is that thought?

Let me digress and explain the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web.  In 1969, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was launched to facilitate communications between military installations. The infrastructure consisted of mainframe computers at major universities around the country and included both the hardware and software components. This “network of networks” is the Internet.

In a separate initiative, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee wanted a system to connect scientists at universities and institutes throughout the world.  He developed a method for transmitting data across the Internet via browsing and hypertext links between nodes of information. Thus, the World Wide Web was launched in 1989 with the first website at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). It later became available to the public in 1993.

Berners-Lee’s original proposal is a fascinating read. His describes his initial goal as looking for a future-proof system that is: “portable, or supported on many platforms” and “extendible to new data formats.” To say that he met this goal would be a gross understatement. He also says, “I imagine that two people for 6 to 12 months would be sufficient for this phase of the project.” That calls to mind the Margaret Mitchell quote, “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Happy birthday, World Wide Web. Here’s to many more.