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Do you know how to create a successful work breakdown structure?

Projects

As we all know, no matter how big the task you can get on top of it by organising it into manageable chunks. If you are struggling to work out how to organise the tasks within your project, an effective work breakdown structure (WBS, found in the APM Body of Knowledge and the PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition) helps you to work out how to arrange each piece of work, and helps you regain control.

It breaks down key project deliverables into smaller, more digestible chunks as part of a hierarchical framework, so you can see what needs to be achieved each step of the way.

As you can see, a WBS comprises of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs:

Inputs

This could include any of the following:

  • A project scope statement or description identifying the main deliverables
  • A list of requirements from you stakeholders
  • Any process assets within your organisation
  • Do you have existing templates for a work breakdown?
  • Are there lessons learned that you can incorporate into the WBS?

Tools and techniques

Decomposition is the main technique that we use to create a WBS. This technique involves sub-dividing the work into increasingly smaller or more manageable chunks until it can be captured in a work package – i.e. it can be given to a specific resource to execute.

When structuring a WBS, there are a number of approaches to decomposition that will help to clarify the outputs. For example, using phases of the project as the first level of decomposition, with products as the second layer; or using major deliverables as the first level, and components of those deliverables as the second level.

Outputs

The primary output of this activity is a graphic showing the parent/child relationships between the levels. The immediate benefit is to clarify the scope and show how the work could be divided up as a way of engaging your team in further planning.

Some projects will benefit from a WBS dictionary, which provides reference information about the deliverables that is not illustrated in the graphic (required resources, cost estimates, acceptance criteria, etc. In PRINCE2® this information would be captured in product descriptions).

When the WBS is completed it can be added to a scope baseline or project plan.

But what does this look like in practice, or in everyday terms, for those of us new to project management? Take making a cup of tea as part of your breakfast – it’s a simple enough task, right? Seen through a WBS lens, it would run as follows:

So, what’s the best way to begin?

We recommend that with your first venture you just go for it – dive in head first, but you’ll likely find that your first draft goes into a minute level of detail that’s actually unnecessary. But once that’s out of your system, you can create your next WBS collaboratively with your peers and get advice from other experienced project managers.

By all means, start by getting your ideas down on paper, but then get another project manager to review it. Ask them questions, such as: how should you cluster tasks together, and what levels of task they have used – do they focus on activities or outputs?; and does the risk of taking a long time to plan something outweigh the risk of just doing it and potentially getting it wrong?

Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. Our APM and PMP® courses go into greater detail about creating a successful WBS, and cover everything you need to know to gain the qualifications, so why not book onto a course right now? By ILX Team | 28 February 2018

NHS green-lights Cloud

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NHS green-lights cloud technology for storing patient data

NHS green-lights cloud technology for storing patient data

NHS Digital has issued new national guidance for health and care organisations considering cloud services for storing patient information.

The document outlines a framework for assessing and managing risk around the use of public cloud technologies in the health and social care sectors in England, including legalities around how data should be stored and used and considerations to be made by organisations when choosing a supplier.

The guidance also contains best practice principles for handling customer data and highlights considerations to be made by trusts prior to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May.

The cloud has been widely embraced in other UK industries under the government’s 2013 ‘cloud first’ policy for public sector IT.

While some parts of the NHS already make use of the cloud – such as NHS Choices and NHS England’s Code4Health initiative – the publication of the national guidelines marks the first time the technology has been approved for widespread adoption within Britain’s health service.

NHS Digital said the guidelines would “enable NHS organisations to benefit from the flexibility and cost savings associated with the use of cloud facilities.”

Central to the policy is that cloud suppliers used by NHS organisations must host their data in the UK, or European countries that provide an adequate level of protection as agreed by the European Commission.

Cloud suppliers covered by the Privacy Shield in the United States are also deemed safe for use.

All vendors are required to use cryptography to protect communications and undertake annual security assessments against recognised standards, such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) or the UK Government’s Cyber Essentials. Suppliers must undertake regular monitoring procedures and keep customers up-to-date with any changes to the service that could impact the security of the IT system and data.

Further, Local Senior Information Risk Owners (SIROs), in conjunction with Data Protection Officers and Caldicott Guardians, must be satisfied with the security arrangements the cloud service provider being considered, using National cyber security essentials as a guide.

Rob Shaw, Deputy Chief Executive at NHS Digital, said: “It is for individual organisations to decide if they wish to use cloud and data offshoring but there are a huge range of benefits in doing so, such as greater data security protection and reduced running costs when implemented effectively.

“The guidance being published today will give greater clarity about how these technologies can be used and how data, including confidential patient information, can be securely managed.”

NHS Digital’s guidelines have been published in partnership with the Department of Health, NHS England and NHS Improvement.

They come at a time when NHS trusts are increasingly look to cloud as their next big IT project, allured by the technology’s promise of enabling rapid scaling-up without the associated hardware costs.

In a recent report from Digital Health Intelligence, a third of NHS surveyed said they were already delivering part of their infrastructure through the cloud, while 39% of the organisations said they planned to introduce some element of cloud-based infrastructure within the next two years.

In addition to lowering hardware costs and improving the ability to recover data in the event of a local system failure, it is argued that cloud technology could take strain off of overstretched GPs by giving them more freedom to work remotely.

From zero to PMO in thirty days

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Abstract

Are your projects out of control? Is it difficult to determine the status of your most important projects? Is the status of all your projects “in progress?” Are the scopes of your projects in line with your strategic objectives? Are your estimating processes non-existent or totally dependent on a few key “experts?” Are you managing your resources effectively? Not even sure of what questions to ask? The maybe the answer for your organization is a Project Management Office (PMO) or if you already have one, then maybe you need a fresh look at your current one.

This paper will provide a 30 day plan for implementing a Project Management Office for your organization. Invest 30 days to provide a structure that can serve your organization for years. Continue reading “From zero to PMO in thirty days”

Key Steps to Implement a Project Management Office

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What Is a PMO?

A PMO is a centralised, co-ordinating body within an organisation (or project) that provides a focal point for the field of project management. It can identify and address project management issues to support and facilitate the achievement of organisational project outcomes.

What Are the Benefits of Having a PMO?

According to Gartner (2008), investments in a Project Management Office (PMO) as a work management discipline can provide common planning and reporting processes and bring structure and support to evaluating, justifying, defining, planning, tracking and executing projects. It also encourages the resolution of conflicts caused by limited resources and other constraints.

We’ve all seen renegade projects that seem to run according to their own agenda. A PMO can help organisations create effective control and oversight of projects and integrate them with the overall business outcomes. Continue reading “Key Steps to Implement a Project Management Office”

Process! That’s how we get things done around here!

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While virtually every leader professes to understand and believe in the importance of process, we know from client data that over 70% of all business problems relate to process deficiencies of some type. Most processes are undefined, complicated, not consistently followed, not measured, and loaded with non value-added activities. Leadership often reacts to these broken processes by adding reviews, approvals, and more complexity, while missing the underlying causes of performance shortfalls. When we press for details of leadership’s understanding, we quickly discover that many don’t know the basic process structure under their command and the essential customer – supplier relationships that exist in all organizations. Given this background, I offer following the essential reasons that all leaders should embrace process in running their organizations.

Why All Leaders Should Embrace Process

1. Process defines how work gets done.

A process is a series of tasks, events and decisions that consumes a product or service from a supplier, adds value to that product or service through some transformation, and then delivers a product or service of more value to a customer. Organization workflow consists of a series of business processes (e.g. Accounts Payable) that connects to deliver a larger business system purpose (e.g. Financial System). The further leadership gets away from the source of the work, the more likely leaders don’t know what’s actually happening on the front lines. It’s pretty common to hear a leader assure us that something isn’t being done when we know that it is. Continue reading “Process! That’s how we get things done around here!”

A digital transformation checklist

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The market is filled with great insights on successful digital transformations. A recent report from McKinsey weighs the risks and benefits. Another, from MIT Sloan Management Review, compares digitally mature organisations with those still digitally adolescent. As with most adolescents, those less mature are noisier and messier, with the promise of better things to come!

Where should you start when assessing the opportunities and risks for your organisation? In particular, what are the balance points, for and against, digital transformation? What is the expected speed of any such change? How do you plan? (Can you plan?)

Here’s a high-level checklist — factors that influence success when driving a digital transformation:

Complexity v. Benefits: be clear about what you seek from a digital transformation for your organisation. Consider what such a transformation needs. Define the return on the investment and the effort you will expend in the transformation. Factor in how you might scale as you transform (and arrive at your end-state), and the infrastructure you need to deliver.

Architecture Speed v. Architecture Integrity: does it make sense that your organisation adopts the speed of a start-up? (Many seek to do exactly this when considering digital transformations, according to McKinsey). But can your organisation even consider this option? How should you balance system robustness and speed to market? Which is more important? What’s your appetite for risk, and how do you define what risk your organisation is prepared to consider in its systems architecture?

Predictability v. Flexibility: from which perspective do you wish to build your system architecture or data centre infrastructure? Do you want structured IT processes and systems that you own and manage, or a scalable public cloud that allows you to throttle up or down? Or a hybrid? What role will hyperconvergence and software-defined virtualisation play?

What to Keep v. What to Replace: Audit your existing IT infrastructure. Again, is it in-house, a “pure” cloud, or a hybrid? More-importantly, assess whether the cost and complexity of your existing infrastructure outweigh the benefits it delivers. Check how you quantify those benefits. Assess how much you spend simply on running hardware in data centres. (According to IDC, this can be as high as 80% of an IT budget.) If existing IT infrastructure has ended up in multiple silos, you’re ready for a digital transformation.

Accountability, Clarity & Visibility: how do you make the transformation team accountable for the project’s success? Include senior management, which is collectively accountable for the clarity of the vision, strategy and business case. Make everyone on the broader team accountable for the visibility of the project within the organisation (and therefore how well it’s understood and accepted).

Measurement: none of this is simple, so don’t seek a simplistic set of measurements. Reflect the complexity of the transformation in how you measure the project’s progress and success. Channel that complexity to track progress, highlight bottlenecks, test assumptions and benchmark performance. Be clear on how each of these interact with each other.

Financials: finally, explicitly link your digital transformation projects to revenues and profits. Be clear about how you expect to grow revenues, reduce costs, or enter new markets.

The primary goal of any digital transformation strategy should be the business benefits you seek to gain. Digital transformation should make your organisation faster in responding to opportunities or threats. Once established and clearly communicated, the readiness of your organisation to start and finish the transformation will follow.

Published on September 30, 2016 Sumir Bhatia Vice President, Data Centre Group, Asia Pacific at Lenovo.

MS Release Outlook Customer Manager

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Microsoft unveils a new, lightweight CRM for those not ready for Dynamics 365: Outlook Customer Manager

New service targeted at small businesses building better customer relations

It’s launched a new service and mobile app called Outlook Customer Manager that’s available as a free add-on for those with an Office 365 Business Premium Plan, starting today for those in the First Release program and rolling out worldwide over the next few months.

The app builds on Bookings, its customer scheduling app, and is designed to hit at the same small business segment.

“Outlook Customer Manager gives you a complete view of your interactions with each customer, helps you track tasks and deals in progress, and surfaces timely reminders. You can stay on top of customer relationships right from Outlook, with no need to install or learn separate tool,” Microsoft wrote in a release announcing the new software. “And as your business needs grow, you can move to Dynamics 365 to take advantage of enhanced customer information, process efficiency and consistency, and deeper financial and customer insights”

The app looks like a slick way to bring varying data sources — from calendar items to customer contact information — together in one place and allow smooth transitions in case one employee needs to hand off things to someone else.

On desktop, the application just surfaces as a new tab in Outlook (see above), and on mobile it has its own dedicated app:

The mobile app is iOS only for now, but Microsoft said it will be rolling out to other operating systems soon.

5 ways to think big, any day of the week

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“How do I make sure I’m thinking about the big picture, when I’m always working on a lot of small things that seem to take up all my time?”

This was a question a product manager once asked me when she felt lost in the weeds, and one you may have asked yourself. How can you empower yourself to step back and look at the big picture so you can lead your team more effectively?

Here are some highlights of strategies that have worked for me, and you might consider:
Allocate time to thinking
If you allow yourself to just do what’s next on your to-do list, you’ll never find the time to think about the big picture–there will always be something that feels more urgent. Block off time on your calendar based on when you’re most creative (morning, afternoon, evening).

Buddy up
Once you’ve allocated time to thinking, you’ll likely come upon a stumbling block: it’s hard to sit down and say to yourself, “Okay . . . think!” The best ideas often bubble up through the course of conversation, so it’s valuable to find another person to think with and bounce ideas back and forth.

If you’re in a management position, consider buddying with someone who reports to you: teammates who don’t often get the chance to strategize will be energized by the opportunity to do it with you. Through this exercise, your teammates will get a sense of ownership over the conclusions you come to together, while you’ll gain focus and clarity.

Choose specific goals
Unpacking your big-picture thinking into a handful of specific goals will make it that much more actionable. If you want to redesign your product, break down this ambition into more specific actions that have a finite timeline: For example, I want to write a draft for the product roadmap over the next two years, broken up into a hierarchy of themes.

Big questions are worth asking but they should be framed in a way that doesn’t feel burdensome or insurmountable. If they do, decompose them into smaller pieces until each one feels doable.

Identify first steps
Creating tasks in Asana with Due Dates and Assignees is how vision becomes action.

If I have big goal, I will generally procrastinate on tackling it unless I immediately choose the first steps. If I want to create a new product roadmap, my first steps may include finding all the various Google Docs and Asana projects where we’ve done roadmapping in the past. Next, I will read them. Next, I’ll make a list of potential features, then group those features into themes. Then, I’ll ensure there’s a specific deliverable and audience for the proposals. Having a time and a place when you know you’ll need to present your ideas (such as at a big meeting) to an audience is a good way to force you to structure your approach.

Ground yourself in reality
What are the big opportunities you’re actually able to tackle? Thinking big occupies a divergent brainstorming space–an alternate reality where there are no wrong answers. The last and most important part of this exercise is to move from the divergent space to one that is solidly based in reality. Be realistic about what options are actionable, and then take next steps. This is the convergent phase.

Encourage teammates to submit ideas onto a single project. Then, have everyone heart their favorites. Sort ideas by number of Hearts.

When followed up with action, regularly scheduled divergent big-picture thinking can bring new, better ideas to light, and give you confidence that the small tasks you’re doing all day are steps along the right path.

For starter ideas on how to think big on any project, check out the article in Fast Company.

Visit The Guide to get suggestions for using Asana to generate ideas, brainstorm, and turn those ideas into action.

10 Tips For Giving Effective Virtual Presentations

Me, Projects, Strategy

What to know before you go live.

An illustration of a computer screen with messy notes and graphs around it.
Presenting online? Try these suggestions to improve your results. | Illustration by Tricia Seibold

As audiences go global and you need to reach more people through technology (including webinars, conference calls and teleconference), you must consider the challenges to connecting with a virtual audience. Here I pinpoint 10 valuable best practices to ensure you communicate successfully.

1. Be Brief

Audiences begin to lose attention after roughly 10 minutes of hearing from the same presenter. If you have more than 10 minutes of content, use interactive activities to keep your audience engaged (for example, take a poll, give quizzes, or ask audience members for their opinions via chat).

2. Be Simple

Keep slides simple — avoid too many words, graphics and animation features. Less is definitely more!

An illustration of a lamp
Light yourself well | Illustration by Tricia Seibold

3. Be a TV Personality

Look straight into your camera, not the screen. Wear clothing that is neutral in color (no plaids or stripes). Light yourself well and from above. Be mindful of what appears behind you in the background. Invest in a good microphone.

4. Be Standing

Even though your audience cannot see you, stand when you present. This allows you to stay focused and use good presentation delivery skills such as belly breathing, vocal variety, and pausing.

5. Be Prepared

Practice delivering your presentation with your technology in advance of your talk. Make sure all of the features of the technology work. Record your practice using the recording feature of your tool. Watch and listen to learn what works and what you can improve.

6. Be Assisted

Have someone available to deal with technical issues and to field email/text questions. Also, if you have multiple remote audience members in one location, be sure to pick one of them to be your “eyes and ears.” Ask them to queue up questions and facilitate discussion on your behalf.

7. Be Specific

Ask pointed questions to avoid too many people answering at once. For example, rather than ask, “Are there any questions?” try “Who has a question about the solution I provided?” Set a ground rule that people state their names prior to speaking.

An Illustration of two pictures of people.
Imagine your audience | Illustration by Tricia Seibold

8. Be Synchronized

Transitions are critical. You must connect what you just said to what is coming next when you move from point to point. Transitions between topics and slides are good opportunities to get people reengaged to your talk.

9. Be Connected

Imagine your audience even though you can’t see them. You can place pictures of audience members behind your camera so you can look at people as you present.

10. Be Early

Encourage your audience to access your call or webinar in advance of the start time so you can iron out any technical issues in advance and get them familiar with the technology.

September 26, 2016|by Matt Abrahams is a Stanford GSB organizational behavior lecturer, author, and communications coach.

The 3 pillars of successful Service and Support

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Failing to deliver on service and support can be extremely costly for any organisation, where according to statistics 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again (Lee Resources).

So in today’s competitive landscape, what exactly should you be expecting from your Call Recording and Workforce Optimisation Service and Support providers? With over 60% of Business Systems’ personnel residing in this division, we outline the 3 pillars of successful Service and Support which we (and our customers) have come to recognise first hand!

1. Strategy & Design

They say ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. The same maxim also holds true for major projects taking place in your organisation. Without a solid strategy and design in place to guide your project plan, desired objectives and budgets (due to nasty unexpected delays and costs) will not be met. With a good service provider, you take advantage of the years of experience in implementing similar solutions, with skilled consultants helping you to design the project so that you don’t have unwanted surprises. Moreover, once you build an ongoing relationship with your provider, you gain access to timely advice on how best to address emerging technological, regulatory operational trends in your industry.

2. Project Management, Implementation & Deployment

In order to ensure each implementation is as straightforward as possible, the service provider should assign a dedicated and qualified Project Manager to ensure that the project is managed and implemented professionally, timely and to budget. It is also important that the project team holds an ethos of responsibility which involves taking ownership of technical issues, providing onsite management and having a proper escalation process in place if and when any faults arise during the project life cycle. In addition to this, a reliable service provider should always be providing you with updates and reports on key milestones project life cycle on a regular basis.

3. Technical Support Services

When dealing with a service provider it is extremely important to consider a number of factors regarding their technical support capabilities including:

  • SLA adherence– Beyond listing expectations of service type and quality, does your provider’s SLA specify remedies for when requirements aren’t met?
  • Service delivery– Do they have a 24/7/365 service delivery capability?
  • Geographical coverage– How many engineers do they have operating across the country?
  • Spare parts holding– Do they have readily available spare parts to ensure fast support if and when a component of your system goes wrong?
  • Comprehensive offering– How extensive are their capabilities; for example, can they provide end of life (EOL) support for discontinued solutions if needed?

Service and Support excellence is the foundation on which long-term customer relationships are built, and as a customer it can have a huge impact on the return of your investment as well as total cost of ownership.

If you need to find out more about what you should be expecting from your service provider and the different levels of support available, then check out our Service & Support webpage.

 

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Business Systems UK

WHAT DOES A PMO DO?

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The Project Management Office (PMO)Program and Project Management Offices (PMOs) have been in the news. OK, you won’t have read about this in your daily paper, but in the UK the PMOSIG became incorporated as the Association for Project Management’s 13th specific interest group a couple of years back. While PMOs have been around for a long time, this was a big step forward for the recognition of the work they do. And they do a lot more than just produce reports.

The role of a PMO

A PMO is the backbone of a successful project management approach at an organization. It is a function that provides decision support information, although it doesn’t make any decisions itself. A PMO underpins the project delivery mechanisms by ensuring that all business change in an organization is managed in a controlled way. According to the Office of Government Commerce’s, (based in the UK) standard for Portfolio, Program and Project Offices, the most mature PMOs provide:

  • Governance: ensuring that decisions are taken by the right people, based on the right information. The governance role can also include audit or peer reviews, developing project and programme structures and ensuring accountability.
  • Transparency: providing information with a single source of the truth. Information should be relevant and accurate to support effective decision-making.
  • Reusability: stopping project teams from reinventing the wheel by being a central point for lessons learned, templates and best practice.
  • Delivery support: making it easy for project teams to do their jobs by reducing bureaucracy, providing training, mentoring and quality assurance.
  • Traceability: providing the function for managing documentation, project history and organizational knowledge.

So what does that actually mean in practice? PMO teams fulfill a variety of functions on a day-to-day basis including:

  • Gathering data about project progress and producing reports
  • Developing standards and processes
  • Encouraging (or enforcing where necessary) the use of those standards and processes
  • Managing resources for projects
  • Delivering training and mentoring project team members
  • Managing dependencies across multiple projects
  • Tracking benefits
  • Reporting on financial information such as return on investment.

As part of this, the PMO is also the guardian of Enterprise Project Management tools and project management methods. There will normally be an expert (or several) in the PMO who can support project managers and their teams with using any project-related software.

Different types of PMO

PMOs look different in different organizations, as you would expect. A recent study by ESI found that nearly 60% of companies have more than one PMO, so decentralization is by far the norm.

Over a third of PMOs have more than 10 members of staff, and the location of the PMO is evenly split between IT, another business function and at a corporate level, so PMOs can be found pretty much anywhere in an organization.

In some companies, the project managers report directly to the PMO, although this is not as common as you might imagine. More than half of the project managers in the companies surveyed by ESI reported in to somewhere else. The increasing maturity of the PMO function means that we are likely to see more and more project managers reporting into a PMO in the future, which in turn provides a better opportunity for standardization and embedding tools and processes.

Your PMO might be a central function reporting to the Board, or it might be a department within a division. You may have a hub-and-spoke model with a central PMO and divisional units in different locations. The PMO might even be a temporary team, put together to support a large program. It may incorporate a centre of excellence for training and standards, or that might be separate. In short, there are a number of different ways for a PMO to operate, and they all have the objective of providing operational efficiencies and supporting the successful delivery of change.

Whatever model you choose for your PMO, getting the implementation right will undoubtedly make the difference between a function that increases the success of projects and one that just focuses on retrospective reporting. A mature PMO can really help an organization make the most of the tools, methods and the skilled staff they have, by ensuring all these resources are used in the best possible way to support the organization’s strategic goals.

This genius iPhone 7 case would give you back the headphone jack Apple removed

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Apple may have killed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, but a new, sleek case is trying to bring it back.

“What people put into their own ear holes is a very personal choice, and it’s a choice we should all get the chance to make — not one that should be made for us,” Diego Prince, a hardware developer from Austin, Texas, said in a video announcing the cases, which would be made for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Prince and his cofounder Troy Osinoff just launched an Indiegogo campaign, saying they plan to ship in December if the campaign reaches its goal. “Early Bird” backers can reserve one case for $49 plus shipping.

According to the campaign site, the Fuze takes the adapter dongle that Apple included with the iPhone 7 and builds it directly into the case, restoring the 3.5 mm headphone jack. It also has an extended battery pack and, as most cases should, protects the phone from damage if it’s dropped.

The battery pack would provide about extra eight hours of power, according to Prince.

The idea for the case is already getting plenty of positive feedback on Product Hunt, a site frequented by techies looking for the latest gadgets and software.

Prince is trying to raise $60,000 in the next month for Fuze, which he says will be spent on prototyping, testing, and shipping, with the goal of getting it to backers around Christmastime. But as with any crowdfunding effort, there are risks involved — namely that Fuze wouldn’t ship by its expected date, or at all.

Still, it’s an interesting concept that frustrated Apple fans may get behind.

“We do have an incredibly tight deadline,” Prince told Business Insider, though he said he is confident that he can deliver the cases on schedule.

 

Paul Szoldra

CIO: How to build your personal brand

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As a CIO you have to carefully manage and nurture the perceptions that others have of you. By ‘others’ I mean internal staff and stakeholders, and outside of your company I’m talking about your peers, industry professionals, and thought-leaders. One of your key assets is your brand. Your brand expands upon more aspects of your character and your skillset than your job title, your CV and your career history. This article explains how you can build a brand that helps you to earn respect throughout your sector, and how the development of your brand can turn you into a sought-after personality in your marketplace.

Continue reading “CIO: How to build your personal brand”

Sync SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client – Preview

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Applies To: OneDrive for Business
With SharePoint document library sync, you can sync the contents of a document library to your personal device. You can now do this with the OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client.With this preview build, you can do the following:

  • Navigate into a folder or subfolder and click Sync. No need to sync the entire document library.
  • Change the folders that you’re syncing directly in the sync client.
  • Realtime coauthoring is supported with Office 2016 (C2R build 16.0.7167.2xxx or MSI build 16.0.4432.100x).

Continue reading “Sync SharePoint sites with the new OneDrive sync client – Preview”

Kotters 8-Step Change Management Model

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Leadership coach Susanne Madsen channels change management guru John Kotter to offer a method for effective change in your organisation. Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

change management methodology

In Review

Susanne began by introducing us to John Kotter, a recognized authority on leadership and change. He developed an eight-step method to manage change, a process that she shared in the video. It goes as follows:

  1. Create urgency
  2. Form a powerful coalition
  3. Create a vision for change
  4. Communicate the vision
  5. Remove obstacles
  6. Create short-term wins
  7. Build on the change
  8. Anchor the change

It takes work, but anything of value does, and if you’re sure the change is needed then you’re invested and have the tools to see it through. 

Continue reading “Kotters 8-Step Change Management Model”

Your Legacy ERP Transition Is Rough:

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5 Pain Management Solutions

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are costly to implement, with an average total cost of ownership around $4.5 million, according to Panorama Consulting. ERP’s break-even point ranges from one year to over five, with 35 percent of companies reaching this point by three years. These solutions are designed for long life cycles for profitability, but changes in technology infrastructure over the past decade create an environment where legacy systems hinder your productivity.

The Aberdeen Group found the average ERP system is seven years old. These legacy systems can put a heavy weight on a company, and even more modern customized solutions are moving into the legacy category as cloud-based solutions gain ground. You can’t eliminate the pain caused by moving from a legacy ERP solution to a new system, but you can manage it. Continue reading “Your Legacy ERP Transition Is Rough:”

AX7 post from Patrick Mouwen

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I onboarded the AX7 technical conference this week with the impression that AX7 was ‘just’ a new UI exposing AX2012R3CU9 code on a new platform with some adjustments to ‘make it work’ on the new Azure platform. But already after the first keynote I felt embarrassed about my initial thoughts which quickly made place for respect and amaze for this enormous leap in technology.

I can only compare the way Dynamics AX has developed in the last 10 years with a boxing game: initially, the boxers tease and challenge each other by some quick targeted moves. But the game really takes off when one of them finds his ‘punch’ (say with the release of AX2012) The opponent is driven towards the corner of the boxing arena and receives punch after punch, each punch having bigger impact. I think AX7 is at the core of this ‘momentum’. In this blog I’ll share the main ‘punches’ and my personal interpretation of what’s going on. If you want to dig deeper then visit the publicly available AX7 wiki.

AX7: my top 12 highlights

1.       AX7 is a true Saas/Paas platform leveraging the Azure platform natively

In the literal words of Mike Ehrenberg, AX7 is not a ‘lift-and-shift’ of AX2012R3CU9: simply shifting the on premise platform to the cloud, as many competitors have done. Instead, Microsoft managed to separate the AX7 application layer and platform layer which allows AX7 to run on native Azure technology. So the many future Azure enhancements ahead will directly impact AX7 positively. With SQL Server, this was an exciting journey as only from CTP6 Microsoft was able to run SQL Server natively on an Azure VM.

2.       AX7 is Microsoft-wide achievement

When Steve Jobs and Bill Gates ignited Silicon Valley with their innovations, they could achieve a lot with a very small team of people. Now with AX7, the AX7 ‘pyramid’ is constructed from many already giant pyramids, ranging from SQL Server technology to Azure to BI technology. Each ‘pyramid’ has its own big team of experts. It’s amazing how Microsoft has managed to blend all these broad specialisms into the AX7 product.

3.       With the AX7 release is not incorporating new technology but driving new technology

With AX7 being a cloud-first platform fully in line with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s focus for service orientation, The new Dynamics is now fully in the spotlights within Microsoft. Beyond that, AX7 is on a path where it drives the other Microsoft teams to enhance, instead of ‘just’ incorporating existing technologies in new releases. A good example is real time analytics. With the market demand for real-time analytics, AX had to move away from non-real time data warehousing and SSAS technologies in favor of the new read-only secondary database (replicated in seconds) and AX entity database (replicated in minutes). Instead, AX required new technology to allow true real-time analytics. This technology was found in new SQL Server 2016 in-memory technology, leveraging indexing on columns instead of the conventional row-based indexing.

4.       Enriching AX functionality exactly according to market demand

AX7 has been developed with more customer, partner and ISV involvement than ever. But that’s something that could have been done 10 years ago. The new thing here is that telemetry data is collected from actual AX7 usage. Based on already available data up to the recent RTW release, Microsoft has been able to identify exactly which areas of AX are used most and which areas have been customized most. This enables targeting all available development capacity spot on. Can you imagine what will happen if AX7 is enrolled to thousands of customers worldwide?

5.       The visible part of the iceberg is getting smaller

With the release of AX7, the production environment will no longer be accessible by customers or partners. Microsoft ‘frees’ the customers and partners from the responsibility to maintain this environment, to apply patches and – again in the words of Mike Ehrenberg – to allow the partners and customers to focus more on unleashing the potential of the software for their respective business instead of being bothered by ‘low-value’ activities. I prefer to use the metaphor of an iceberg in the water to express what is going on: the part of the iceberg which is really visible and tangible (the part above the water) gets smaller and smaller and the part under water bigger and bigger. In other words: less effort and ‘hassle’ against maximum value and service.

6.       AX7 resolves many implementation pain points

With AX7 Microsoft truly expresses an ongoing focus for shortening the AX implementation cycle. Many pain points are now solved by Microsoft:

  • Fast code deployment: the application code base has now been split up in multiple models. Code can now be compiled and deployed in smaller chunks and in a much faster way.
  • Easier code upgrades: the conventional ‘layering’ option is still there, but custom code can now be implemented as an extension (applicable to not all but many AOT elements). As such, the extension is completely segregated from the out-of-the-box code base, which makes customizations much more flexible, especially regarding future upgrade scenarios.
  • Shipping of configuration data among environments: with so called data packages (a collection of data entities which are an aggregated collection of tables and views), sets of data can easily be shipped across different environments. Optionally the data in the data package can be edited in Excel prior to deployment as the data package is physically nothing more than a zipped collection of Excel files added up with a header and manifest XML. So called ‘process data packages’ can even associate a data package with a specific process in the LCS process library. You can have a new sales order posted in a brand new originally empty environment in minutes.
  • Multi-purpose task recorder: the new task recorder can record tasks in AX not only to train people on any task in the software (including interactive guided clicking), but can also be used to automate testing. The recorded tasks (including the data captured) can be made part of new software builds to automatically regression test the build before deployment.
  • Retail: activation of a cloud-POS or mPOS device can now be done through an easy-to-use wizard. As there’s only 1 channel database for all your channels in the new cloud topology, the wizard preopulates the channel database URL and also the stores the device can be associated for (based on the Azure AAD user > worker > store address book > store association).

7.       Life Cycle Services (LCS) is no longer a recommendation but a requirement

In many ways adoption of life cycle services can no longer be avoided. Some scenarios to highlight this:

  • As AX7 no longer provides access to production environments, the telemetry LCS offers is crucial in identifying issues. Then consecutively, LCS is leveraged to quickly deploy a representative environment, load relevant reference test data and simulate the issue with a task recording.
  • Data packages and other assets are all stored in the LCS Asset Library. LCS is the central repository for storage and deployment across the various environments. LCS has a hierarchical structure: a ‘corporate’ section which allows re-using ‘assets’ among different projects.

8.       Support 2.0

AX7 re-defines the way you can support your users. Having your users record the issue they face through the task recorder is one thing. Being able to create a ticket from AX7 which is directly converted into a Visual Studio work item for the support engineer is another thing. But the earth shaking thing here is the available telemetry for the support engineer: as AX7 continuously logs system performance and system activity along the way, the work item is automatically enriched with a ‘snapshot’ of the state of the system at the time the issue occurred: what browser did the user utilize, what batch jobs were running, what was the user doing exactly etc.

9.       Business process orientation

Although I think the business process repository on LCS could be organized and incorporated in a better way, the AX7 UI offers a brilliant new way its application functionality is exposed to the business users: workspaces. Conceptually the workspaces have many similarities with the good old role centers: tiles are the new cues, tabbed lists are the old enterprise portal enabled listpages (although the new ‘tab’ structure is very handy) and charts and links can be embedded as role center offered (although far more sophisticated now). However, a user can now be offered a numerous number of workspaces, all supporting a specific set of tasks related to a process the user is affiliated with. The set of workspaces together forms the user’s dashboard.

10.   New features

OK, they might have become a bit less prominent because of the other hot topics mentioned, but AX7 still offers some great new features – a glimpse of the less prominent features:

  • Finance: cross company general journal entry: creating and posting journals without having to switch companies.
  • Retail: being able to download updates to mPOS from the device form directly (self-service installer). Process: a new update is made available by IT and a store manager can download and run the update package locally in the store.
  • Enterprise search and ribbon search: just type ALT+G to open enterprise search and then type “U C”. AX7 will come up with “Unit Conversion” immediately – one click and you’re in the form. You can even navigate to other pages by simply changing the URL. Type ALT+Q and you can search for a specific function in the ribbon, regardless of the tab group the function belongs to.

11.   The cloud: a new way of thinking

With the actual AX7 cloud release you have to be aware that basic on-premise functions have suddenly become a challenge. Here’s a shortlist of challenges and the way Microsoft managed to tackle those:

  • Accessing on-premise files and folders is not possible from the cloud: AX can no longer poll on-premise folders and pull-in files for processing, for example in recurring integration scenarios. Instead, files have to be pushed into the cloud. Here’s how: Microsoft has exposed an API which allows a source system to push a file into Azure blob storage accompanied by an enqueuing message which flags a recurring AX batch job that there’s a file to be processed. Microsoft will ship an application to do the enqueuing (and similar dequeuing for exports) on behalf of the source (or target) application. This application will be able to work with processing folders (IN, ERROR, COMPLETED etc.) as many customers were used to with the DIXF batch job (see this blog post by Kurt Hatlevik).
  • Printing on local network printers is not possible from the cloud. Again, we need an on-premise pull mechanism here. For this case Microsoft will ship a ‘document routing agent’ which will query an Azure queue for messages which contain meta data for new documents to be printed (stored in Azure blob storage). Network printers can be configured on a specific form in AX7 which will allow the Azure queue message to contain meta data which printer the ‘document routing agent should send the document to.
  • Hot keys: the different browsers have different reserved hot keys. To stay as much in line as possible with current hot keys users are familiar with, Microsoft had to be creative. For example, the ‘new record’ hot key CTRL+N has now been replaced by ALT+N, which is still pretty familiar for hot key addicts.

12.   Relatively low threshold for adopting AX7

It’s a challenge to develop and release a new product which involves so many paradigm shifts. But it’s pretty handsome if you manage to make the adoption of the new product still relatively easy – very important when it comes to minimizing costs for existing partners to make the shift and minimizing costs for customers to upgrade. Why I do consider the AX7 adoption to be relatively easy:

  • Developers will have to embrace Visual Studio, the AOT is re-arranged a bit and developers have to get used to work with the extensions and file based code and packages. But X++ is rather untouched (only enriched at some points) and for those who have some Visual Studio experience, a lot of ‘new’ things is actually common to .NET/Visual Studio in general.
  • Yes, the cloud environment requires a new way of thinking as stated in the latter point, but many things will be managed by Microsoft ‘under water’. As always, understanding the concept is much easier than having to become a specialist in an area.
  • With the earlier CTPs operating the new AX7 UI was a bit different than the familiar AX2012 navigation. But with RTW the similarities are very clear again. The area pages are back in town for those who worship them, form dynalinking (selecting a different record in the listpage is reflected in a details form) is working flawlessly and the good old ribbon and favorites are still there.

I hope this post inspired you to embrace the new AX7 features without any fear to make the jump.

Happy renewed DAX’ing.

ERP Implementation – The Traps.

CRM, Projects
Published on May 6, 2016 Vinay Bansal

ERP implementations are littered with tales of lost millions and withdrawals after implementation. Many of the most experienced IT consultancies/ Software Providers have failed. So what are the secrets? What are the traps? This question could produce at least a book, and probably a sequel. Here are a few things the Software Provider is not going to tell you about. They are by no means the most important, but they are missed in many implementations.

ERP Systems

Most organisations do not understand the costs associated with an ERP system when they first commence the implementation. The benefits are usually well understood. The costs do not surface until well into the implementation – and why should the Software Provider talk to an organisation about the costs and difficulties when they are trying to make a sale?

On the surface, there are very attractive reasons for going ERP. Benefits include:

  • A single system to support rather than several small and different systems
  • A single applications architecture with limited interfaces
  • Access to management information unavailable across a mix of applications
  • Access to best practice systems and procedures
  • More integration hence lower costs
  • More “automation” of tasks Generic Costs and Impacts

The costs and impacts are understandably not played up by the ERP Vendors. Some of those are:

  • Implementation effort will be bigger then ever talked about or even imagined. We are yet to hear from an organisation who have implemented ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Because of the richness of functionality, the “toy box effect” can take over. Users see all the functionality available and suddenly they want it now. The scope can grow out of control.
  • The existing environmental mix between what is done manually and what is done by the system will swing dramatically after implementation. Many more tasks will be automated. Automation will significantly reduce the flexibility of how you operate as a business.
  • Users need to become more computer literate. Many see this as personally challenging – even beyond their ability – and will not cope, or leave the company.
  • The word “Enterprise” in ERP means that whatever happens in one area has a ripple effect in other areas. Understanding the implications of actions of one area, on other areas of the company, is not something that happens overnight. Training tends to focus on how do I do my job. It should also focus on what are the impacts of my job, in other areas.
  • Near enough is no longer good enough. Data integrity becomes critical. The computer cannot make human judgments. If stock is moved, it is no good somebody remembering where they put it. The information needs to be put into the system or there will be a domino effect. E.g. Stock is moved from location A to location B and the information is not put into the system. The system will tell someone to get the material from A and when it is not there, they have to go looking. At the same time it is telling someone else to put new material in B, but B is full. The first person finds the original material in B and logs it into the system. We now have double the quantity in the system again and it doesn’t reorder. And so it goes on and everyone is blaming the system.
  • ERP systems tend to replace old systems. As such it is a quantum leap for all areas of the company. It is replacing the trusty Ford with a high performance Ferrari. This happens at a Technical level as well as a Business Level. New ways need to be learnt in a very short space of time.
  • Things have to be done consistently. No longer are we able to do something one way in one branch and another way in another branch. The system is going to determine how we do things in all locations. Even within one location, special treatment may not be possible any more without changing the configuration of the system. If the system says you can either have 0, 15, 30 or 60 day credit terms, you can no longer offer 45 day terms without changing configuration. If consistency can be implemented, there is good potential for cost savings as well as getting rid of special arrangements that reduce profit.

 

Corporate Culture

All the points above contain technical issues or business issues which can be managed if they are identified soon enough. Training can show people the impact of their actions in other areas. QA programs can focus on quality of data. What most managers who have been through an ERP implementation, will tell you, is the biggest impact is on “Corporate Culture”. It is always underestimated and never overestimated.

Corporate Culture is a combination of two things.

  • The type of people who are employed by a company. Their personal values, skills, habits etc.
  • The way the organisation works. The focus, decision making process, attitude to staff, stability, etc.

Both feed off one another. Job applicants who feel aligned with the way the organisation works and comfortable with the style of person who interviews them, will likely get the job, and perpetuate the Culture.

To successfully take on an ERP system, an organisation needs to change it’s “Corporate Culture”. · It may need to change from being highly flexible and not paying a lot of attention to consistency or accuracy, to one of being almost obsessed with detail. · Of being prepared to have Business Practices that are actually adhered to rather than just being documented and forgotten. · People need to change from focusing on turnover to focusing on profit. ERP makes profit far more measurable down to Department, Customer and Material level. ·

Staff need to change their focus from their own job, to the whole organisation. What they do in their area has impacts in places they may never have envisaged. None of this is easy, and in many cases will be unachievable. Some people will not be prepared to make the change and will either leave of their own volition or be asked to leave. This is the cost of ERP.

Another dimension to “Cultural Change” is the timeframe in which the change is to be made. It basically needs to happen over a few days. One week you can bend all the rules and get away with it; next week the system will not let you. No matter how much training and preparation takes place, it cannot prepare many people for reality. That is not to say the preparation should not take place. The preparation will ease the pain, not take it all away. The more preparation the less the pain. On the positive side, some people will take to the system like the proverbial duck to water. These people tend to be (but not all are) younger, newer employees who have had experience in other organisations. They know the benefits of a good system and are frustrated with the current one. They will jump at the chance to make use of the new technology.

 

Change Management

Change Management is about setting expectations that lessen the pain of change. People involved in a change expect to go from A to B. Perhaps where they are actually going is to C. Change Management is about getting them used to the idea that C is the real destination.

To give an example, any new system is bound to have teething problems. If users expect that all is not going to run smoothly on day 1, and that they may be working back late for the first week because of problems bedding in the new system, they are less likely to reject the system when it does go wrong. On the other hand telling staff that this is going to be a great new system with no problems can only lead to disappointment and rejection when bugs appear. As such, change management is measurable.

Measuring attitudinal changes is not a complicated process. Properly managed, we can see how people feel about the changes over a period of time, and how they shift in their expectations. The results of money spent on change management can be seen. Not putting in the effort before implementation, will cost an organisation after implementation. What is the cost to an organisation of a system that is forced upon people, and with which they feel little ownership? They will either sink it, or ensure it never reaches it’s potential. Either way, the organisation will never get the return on investment it imagined.

Other experiences.

A survey of organisations that have implemented ERP’s was carried out recently. It identified “10 Common Causes of Disaster”.

  • Change Management and Training.

    This was mentioned as the major problem with implementations. Changing work practices to fit the system is a major difficulty. Also mentioned were training across modules and starting training sooner.

  • To BPR or not to BPR

  • It is difficult to draw the line between changing Business Processes to suit the system or retaining Business Processes and paying the cost, in dollars and time, to change the system. As time and cost squeeze the implementation, the usual path is to not modify the system, but to change the way people work. This feeds back into Change Management and Training.
  • Poor Planning

    Planning covers several areas such as having a strong Business Case, to the availability of Users to make decisions on configuration, to the investing in a plan that captures all the issues associated with implementing it.

  • Underestimating IT skills

    As most people are upgrading from old technology, the skills of the staff need to be upgraded as well. The upgrade is also going to place significant demands on a team who are geared to maintain an old but stable environment. Usually this effort is underestimated.

  • Poor Project Management

    Very few organisations have the experience in house to run such a complex project as implementing a large-scale integrated solution. It usually requires outside contractors to come in and manage such a major exercise. It can be a fine line between abdicating responsibility and sharing responsibility. Many consulting firms do a disservice to their clients by not sharing the responsibility.

  • Technology Trials

    The effort to build interfaces, change reports, customize the software and convert the data is normally underestimated. To collect new data, and clean the data being converted, will also require an effort that is beyond what is normally expected.

  • Low Executive Buy-in

    Implementation projects need Senior Executive involvement to ensure the right participation mix of Business and IT, and to resolve conflicts.

  • Underestimating Resources

    Most common budget blow outs are change management and user training, integration testing , process rework, report customisation and consulting fees.

  • Insufficient Software Evaluation

This involves the surprises that come out after the software is purchased. Organisations usually do not do enough to understand what, and how the product works before they sign on the bottom line. The Bleeding Edge ERP is so massive and integrated that reporting and linking to other systems (either your own or your customers and suppliers) can be much more difficult than you expect. Companies looking at ERP need to examine how they accept online feeds from a customer, or a customers’ customer, and examine the technological enablers as well as the implications of these technologies inside of the Business.

Summary.

All this leads to a list of likely problems with an ERP system.

  • The cost is likely to be underestimated
  • The time and effort to implement is likely to be underestimated
  • The resourcing from both the Business and IT is likely to be higher than anticipated
  • The level of outside expertise required will be higher than anticipated
  • The changes required to Business Processes will be higher than expected.
  • Scope control will be more difficult than expected
  • There will never be enough training – particularly across different modules

Most important of all, and the single biggest failure point for ERP implementations, is the need for change management. The need for change management is not likely to be recognized until it is too late. The changes required to corporate culture are likely to be grossly underestimated. It is going to be hard enough to cope with the technical issues without having to address major people issues as well.