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Author: Sam Kurien
•12:20 PM
Can Gamers change the world? At least Jane McGonigal thinks so. Jane is a researcher at the Institute of Future in Palo Alto, and a out of the box thinker when it comes to game designing. Her research work is on how games and gamers can change the world or more importantly solve the problems of the world. Here is a presentation below of a talk she gave at TED recently and my comments below.



Though some of you may think the ideas expressed by Jane may be quite extreme or way out there, I have reasons to back her up. First of all I owe Jane for allowing me to quote and use her references on some of the papers I have written on game theory and optimization for my graduate course work. But apart from that Jane has more than a point the prove and now a platform to express after talking at TED. If I made the claim two decades ago that computer gamers would be flying the next generation of fighter planes, it would have sounded outrageous. But today not so, the droids that are flown over Iraq are hand controlled from a base in Nevada. Apart from destructive missions as Jane expresses Gamers may be the next generation of leaders, they have fought epic battles, solved world problems, have extreme ability to focus, concentrate, build teams and execute missions to bring an Epic win to a possibility

My friends Pat and Bob are big WOW (world of warcraft) gamers and I used to think what a waste of time and money but after hearing Jane the attitude has changed. Skill sets may be developed in varied ways but with games a special set of skills are developed subconsciously. Epic games are more fascinating because there is a larger story involved, you are part of the larger story and though your career and level is advancing, there is a community, there is a team and there is a tribe that depends on you and you are depending on them to achieve the larger objective. What I just said also has spiritual implications which I will talk on my faith blog some time later.

But from management perspective you are getting my point. Rock on Gamers! Be the change agents you are called to.

Cheers,

Sam Kurien.
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Author: Sam Kurien
•4:54 PM
I couldn't resist putting this Dilbert strip here. Scott Adams nails it and how true it is in many of the organizations of our day.


Professional development for employees and management is key as we nurture and grow talent. If we don't nurture and grow the talent we have they are bound to leave. It is innate in the nature of the human being to grow, to develop and be rewarded for that development. It is not surprising that money is not the top most factor in organizations with high turn over. From my observations the top three factors boil down to employee-employer relationships (trust), lack of growth/career path, and finally lack of commitment or alignment to employee's purposes with the vision-mission and goals of the organization.

Training and professional development of an individual to equip him/her for the tasks/projects of the organization. They should be aligned with the three factors that I mentioned in the last paragraph. Budgeting and planning should include this vital piece and HR management professionals who have these skills in closely grafting this in with the finance & functional managers are the ones to keep cherishing in the organization. Plus if you have a matrix for measuring the outcomes of this development in the execution of projects, that becomes the meta-data for future training and development programs. Retaining and keeping talent is important for the competitive edge in the marketplace.

Cheers,

Sam Kurien
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Author: Sam Kurien
•10:21 PM
Strategic partnerships are crucial and key to an organizations's success operating in a flat world where interdependency and integration  bring value to a product or service. This not only ensures your continuity in the market place in the long run but increases your market share by allowing all your strategic partners to win. I had visions of grandeur  a few years ago of a strategic partnership with an organization that I wanted to partner with which would have benefited us as well as them. In fact it would have ensured and solidified the continuity of their business in a declining market-place today for them but it all boiled down to 'integrity' as one of the key issues and not surprisingly its one my 'i''s in the list below.

Anyway thoughts on this subject led me to write this post. Like everyone else on the planet (who are interested or have stake in companies), I like to catch up on good keynote presenters, of course one that always stands out is Steve Jobs and if you have observed his presentations in the last few years (almost a decade now), we see him bringing CEO's and other stakeholders of other companies to speak at his keynote about the new partnership or alliance that Apple has formed and indirectly he manages them to endorse the new 'Apple Product' and strengthen the view in the stockholders and consumer's mind that this product is 'the thing' that will blow the market away. From these observations watching Steve Jobs @ work I have formulated that to ensure success putting back the 'I' into strategic partnership thinking is crucial so that the 'We' win in the free market economics.

What are these 'I'? and why they should decide while forming a strategic partnership.

1) Importance -  The relationship must matter strategically to both sides more for the long term (rather than short term)
2) Interdependence - The strategic partnership happens because there is a need for each other it can be financial, technological or joint venture to push value of their product or service in the market place.
3) Investment - Each partner has a stake in the success of the other, once success is the fortune for the other.
4) Integration - Ensure that several contact points are cross bleeding between the two to guarantee success in partnership
5) Integrity - Finally both organizations should trust each other. Trust is critical along with ethics and morality. Management classes in theory and practice in industry try to enforce ethics in some or the other way but it should stem from morality and morality should stem from true foundational principles.

Cheers,

Sam Kurien
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Author: Sam Kurien
•2:24 PM
One of my favorite topics in organizational management is organizational structure and it seems little do people realize that organizational hierarchy/structural planning are key valuable components that are inter-linked with the functions of strategic planning and implementation along with the over arching  vision, mission, purposes and goals of an organization. In practice however we see many organizations creating titles and roles on the fly or whim or by the seat of their pants in decision making. I heard once that in a organization that the President had a bright idea of expanding the senior management positions to 12 Vice Presidents (on the fly) out of nowhere, a decision from the hip without knowledge of structures (I am sure he as some knowledge of structure) or following the costing and science behind it.

In relation however at first I want to concentrate on the idea of how program management is different from project management. To outline the differences we first need to know the definition of Project management:

Project management consists activities of  planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of company resources (like time, financial capital, human capital) to achieve a the goals of a project and its implementation for a given period of time and thereafter those resources being dismantled after the project is done.

It is clear from the definition that project management is concerned with allocation, utilization and direction to members on a team to achieve the objectives of the project as lay out in the project charter under the constraints and adherence to budgets, schedules and resources.

However Program management or in the life of the program manager/director the major responsibility is to ensure that the work effort achieves the outcome specified in the organization and the implementation of the IT strategies. Since this blog has a concentration of it in the background I will use the term 'IT strategies'. So the way I see the program manager's roles is like a guy who bridges the vision from senior management and stakeholders and tells the team members and project managers of how to realize or accommodate this vision. The role is not just accommodating, it will mean maintaining and it will mean enhancing. Those Program managers received periodic summary of reports and briefings of funding consumption and have to approve budgets their main concentration if a deviation has occurred from the overall strategic vision.  Though it seems the roles of program management and project management have almost parallel functions of planning, organizing, directing and controlling they are again at different levels in the organizational structure. The program manager job seems to be on going and never ending, the project manager on the other hand has a start date and an end date. Objectives at hand may be more defined whereas for the program manager they are broadly defined.
I took these two examples to work my way up, as you go higher up in the organization structure the definitions, functions, strategizing and envisioning though they become broader, yet the top owner (stakeholders or senior management) not knowing what all the details are for all the activities, should still have the fair idea as to what is entailed in those activities and make change decisions or allow participative decision making that eventually empower him/her in the organization. 


Cheers, 


Sam Kurien 
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Author: Sam Kurien
•9:09 AM
When you mull through projects charters and project implementations research shows that 80% of the projects do not get implemented correctly as they fail to bring value added return or accommodate in furthering the long term interests of the organization.

From a journal I read the Dept. of Homeland security demonstrated that EA methodologies can be used to push IT strategic planning efforts, the idea was to collaborate architects wit the SMO...strategic management office or as in some organizations known as the strategic planning office.  The architects share willings the data structures, flow of information and show metrics to the planners as how value is added or will be added .

Developing EA using spreadsheets and project management tools, power point presentations is a thing of the past and sophisticated planning tools that are available today take IT planning to a new level where IT is no longer support function but a tool for strategic implementation and forecasting.  A good EA implementation will allows the senior management, program managers and project managers to look at a dashboard early morning based upon the permissions they are assigned to see a bunch of windows or dials that show the core projects, processes, ROI's, performance indicators, emails that are high priority synced to updates and status's of programs and projects. Not just this but with the hands on ability for decision makers on the dials to control and change the parameters that one is entitled to leverage the performance of the organization. CIOs, Program Managers, Capability Portfolio Managers, operators, engineers and financial management personnel can customize their own dashboards to have daily insights from the EA so that information is integrated from all sections, domains and activities of the organization. Maybe I am dreaming, but if all your core processes are defined along with the costs assigned and measurable objectives to achieve a proper EA implementation should be able to achieve this. EA then becomes an empowering tool.

Another value EA can bring to the entire strategic planning process may be optimizing performance in cyclical data mining, this may mean tying databases to relevant architectures but identifying iterative normalizing activities to present data in a timely manner in short integrating intelligence into data. For example in the last company that I worked for the CEO was always interested in answering the question 'Why' the volumes for a given country went down for a given quarter and how did it compare to last year or another favorite of his question was if we gave this much volume to this company where we didn't have a presence how much was the reciprocity from that company where they didn't have presence. If volume of shipments fell what alerts should be given to Sales Team or the Program Manager, Regional Manager and at any given time the 'CEO' should be able to dial in or alerted of this information. I say 'dialing' in rather than 'drilling in' because drilling in for information though presently done in most of the companies, data now needs to served up with on-spot intelligence built into them. An application’s ability to customize the front end view to suit the needs of the echelon stakeholder is supremely important to getting the maximum value out of the EA.

Of course very few organizations are able to do this but my observation is this - a business that clearly identifies its activities and the one that is able  to relate those activities with goals, mission and purpose are able to successfully implement EA and integrate it for Strategic Planning. This also helps in maintaining a living architecture for accomplishing accurate up to date analysis from the metadata of your enterprise. This brings up the point that time and resources (and that can be cost intensive but well worth it) will establish the credibility and accuracy of the EA implementation/integration with strategic planning function.

My Final Comments on the Issue.

Bottom line value addedness (its not word but I want to use it ...its my blog) should not be the only objective of EA implementation but it is a major part of it, as a stakeholder not only the ROI should show that EA implementation outweighs the expense of creating and maintaining it but show its a long term investment which has impact in quality of all processes. Ultimately a mature, well-administered EA has the potential to facilitate a vision and affect positive changes in programs, policies, resources, and schedules, providing unilateral continuity, and saving time and resources while building a more capable enterprise. If done right, the enterprise architecture used for strategic IT planning will help answer questions before they are asked.

Cheers,

Sam Kurien
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