7 months, 4 days ago

Found In Design unBook

Please take a look at my new unBook the sequel to Lost In Translation:What’s This Blog About? The Problem with Processes: The Reprise Ten Minutes More On VPEC-T Navigating VPEC-T The Four Focus AreasThe Change Design ToolboxPlease f…

7 months, 19 days ago

The Problem with Processes: The Reprise – FiD post

This is a slightly rewritten version of the first public airing of the VPEC-T concept. That was over 10 years ago – it now it has a life of its own, it is, however, the foundation on which Lost In Translationwas written, and apparent in Found In Design. Please take a look and send me your comments. Thanks Nigel.

8 months, 5 days ago

First Trial of the VPEC-T Navigation Map

This week’s update: We ran the 2nd two-hour session last week and have the 3rd and last iteration scheduled for the coming week. Continuing to get positive feedback on the map. It does seem to help provoke richer discussion and stimulate thoughts.  The client is feeling increasingly confident that we’ve captured the main aspects of the change programme ahead of them, and specifically, that we will find & explore all:

  • Material risks
  • The Major Transition States – with objective/outcomes at each
  • Core principles for the transition
  • Programme work streams
  • Critical cross-project dependencies
  • Crucial trust relationships
  • End-state clarity.

    Next week will move the focus towards the JOIN and SLICE cycles. I expect greater involvement with the PMO and the Business Analysts working on the detailed/costed Business Case, over the next two weeks, will move the focus to ARRANGE by the end of March. To quote Dan Ward: we will have then completed “Start before we start” (recommend watch his Simplicity Cycle videos).

    Keeping things simple, pragmatic & easy-to-understand has been key. The antithesis of a Big-Five approach, or a traditional bloated “methodology/framework” #EntArch style: Fast, simple, relevant, and at a fraction of the cost!


    On Thursday last, I ran a VPEC-T workshop using the new VPEC-T Navigation Map. The workshop lasted 4 hours, and the client now wants another two 4 hour sessions. The new map received positive feedback. According to one participant:

    “The map really helped us explore each area and triggered useful thoughts”.

    This is in the 2nd iteration of FIND, JOIN, SLICE. We will complete 3 iterations of all Four Focus Areas  (including ARRANGE) within the next 2-3 weeks. This session was part of the design of a circa $4M change programme over next 18 months. We will be using many of the FiD toolset including (but not limited to):
    The map:

    9 months, 17 days ago

    Navigating VPEC-T

    Here’s a poster for a VPEC-T thinking framework to help knotty problem solving & design innovation.This map (infograhic) provides a starter-for-ten checklist of things you might consider when doing a VPEC-T analysis or design – whether sitting at y…

    9 months, 26 days ago

    Navigating VPEC-T

    Here’s the poster for a VPEC-T thinking framework master class focused on knotty problem solving & design innovation.The aim of this map is to provide a starter-for-ten checklist of things you might consider when doing a VPEC-T analysis/design – wh…

    1 year, 3 months ago

    VPEC-T: My Favourite Quotes

    “VPEC-T is based on a profoundly radical philosophy of plurality. Instead of a single centralized value system (as found in top-down command-and-control organizations), we expect to find a range of different (overlapping, conflicting) value systems. Instead of a single coherent set of policies, we expect to find the complex interaction between different kinds of policies (commercial, security, safety, corporate responsibility, and so on). Instead of a simple set of routine events, the post-modern organization is faced with a dynamic set of emerging events. Instead of a rigid set of database records, systems content is rich and evolving. And finally, the whole human activity system is underpinned by a complex set of trust relationships between people and organizations”.

    – Richard Veryard.

    “There is original and very useful thinking underneath the name [VPEC-T] that I think will change the way information systems are developed over time.”

    “And just one final point about that name.  It’s actually very useful.  “VPEC-T” turns out to be a compressed mental checklist that can quickly be played back in your mind in meetings, as you write up the findings of a study or as you discuss the information system ‘to be’”.

    – Roy Grub.

    “This is a genuinely different way of looking at information systems. Much of architecture and requirements analysis is focussed on the “how” rather than the “what”. This book redresses the balance and provides a novel way of understanding how people and organisations interact and what information systems need to do”.

    – Simon Tait.

    “A simple and elegant approach to allow people who happen to be building IT architectures, to talk meaningfully with the business people who are paying for it. It’s a new way to (begin to) fix an old problem. An IT architecture that ignores people will be both complex and unworkable. VPECT encourages people to type discussions around trust and values in a way that architecture frameworks ignore. An excellent tool, whose application is underestimated by its authors in areas way outside of IT architectures”.

    – Peter Drivers.

    “I’ve used VPEC-T as an internal approach to driving questions and conversations as opposed to ‘throwing it on the table’ – my thoughts are that asking people to think hard about their business problems etc is enough to ask without the cognitive burden of a framework (no matter how simple!). But then being an employee as opposed to a consultant means that the discussions tend to be looser, shorter and less formal than it might be as an outside consultant”.

    Mike Burke.

    “Overall it was a great way of describing the business context we were operating in and gave us a solid foundation to start requirements analysis and architecture from. Certainly, we were better served by the output of this analysis than we would have been with a list of affected IT systems, or current state processes”.

    – Doug Newdick.

    “The most important part for me was the VT. It allowed for better conversations with clients and other stakeholders through refining my understanding of the context, relevance, responsiveness, timeliness and other business level ilities. This allowed distilling a better architecture once lensing through PEC which I see very much as technology level concerns.

    It’s a very useful thinking framework to focus on actual value. It is very effective at nurturing sustainable productivity and works very effectively when combined with data-driven analysis”.

    Darach Ennis.

    “Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships and must be firmly established in order to ensure any exchange of dialogue. It is the most difficult element to obtain, yet it is the single most important element in the [VPEC-T] model. Trust is best established by keeping one’s word and completing the actions for which you have committed (‘doing what you say you will do’). Often, participants in a project will have a positive/negative trust reputation that must be understood as part of the communications process. Ways to establish and maintain credibility (trust) with other parties include transparency of purpose and full disclosure of goals and expectations (no ‘hidden’ agendas)”.

    – James Kuhn.

    Twitter tag: #vpect

    Please take a look at the work-in-progress VPEC-T Metro Map.

    2 years, 4 months ago

    Effectiveness for enterprise-effectiveness

    Keep it simple. Simple, yet not simplistic. Acknowledge the complexity, yet don’t ever push that complexity in people’s faces. (Not until they’re ready for it and choose to face it, anyway.) Help people find their own effectiveness about creating effectiveness.

    4 years, 3 months ago

    6 IT Trends & 15 New Habits for CIOs & Their Teams

    The CIO/ITD In Crisis.

    Harvard Business Review blogger, Jim Stikeleather, posted recently  The CIO in Crisis: What You Told Us – a few particular points caught my attention:

    “The best executives I have met have had a great understanding of how to use technology to gain competitive advantage and improve operations. They also worked with the CIO to help them to understand the business. They worked together to identify the technologies that could improve the company’s competitive advantage versus technologies that were needed to support the business. Once this was done, the executive leadership and CIO focused on implementing technologies that improve the company’s competitive advantage”.

    All the parts of the organization have to come together and build a common language to discuss their markets and their enterprise. They need to have a common appreciation of each other’s purpose. The CIO must step up and mentor the C-suite on the potentials, possibilities, threats and opportunities of information technology..”.

    If IT and the CIO come to the party talking like engineers, only offer convergent lines of thought(analytical, rational, quantitative, sequential, constraint driven, objective and detailed focus) and don’t offer a more holistic, shaded divergent thinking point of view (creative, intuitive, qualitative, subjective, possibility driven, holistic with conceptual abstractions), then they have missed the point”.

    The CEOs were actively aware, concerned, looking at alternatives such as chief digital officers, or creating “not-so-shadow” IT organizations under the CMO”.
    For existing CIOs, ask yourself a few questions. Are you generating customer value? Are you (or do you have the potential to be) the best in the world at what you are doing? Are you required to do what you are doing? Using the answers to those questions, what do you need to stop doing, start doing or do differently?..”. [see 15 ways to change the ITD’s habits table later in this post].

    In a similar vein, according to a recent CIO event run by Forrester Research: “The IT department of 2020 could disappear as a separate entity and become embedded in departments throughout the entire organization“.
    This article posits that the need for change is now undeniable, and that CIOs are looking for practical steps for creating new habits in their teams. These new habits, developed now, will help prove the continuing need for a central Enterprise IT Department.

    History & Trends.

    The demise of the IT Department is not a new  prediction, it was first suggested in 2004 by Nicolas Carr in his book ‘Does IT Matter?‘ and again in 2007 when Chris Anderson published his ‘Black Wire – White Wire’ article. This post talked about how corporate IT was being over-taken by consumer-IT. Later, in January 2008,  Nicholas Carr famously pronounced “The IT department is dead” referring to the up-take of utility computing since his 2004 prediction. 

    Since then, others made further observations about emerging IT trends that appear to strengthen those predictions. Today, around six hard trends are well established. They sit within an umbrella trend we described as ‘Externalization’ back in 2007. Later, in ‘Flash Foresight‘ Daniel Burrus explains how he identified many of the established technology trends and why they are ‘Hard’ trends rather than passing fads. More recently,  in his book ‘Agile Architecture Revolution‘, Jason Bloomberg talks about understanding the enterprise as a Complex System – a System-of-Systems. His book is architectural guide to help IT Departments respond to the Externalization trend and, at the same time, it highlights the need for a change in mindset within the IT community.

    In parallel, John R. Rymer of Forrester Research coined the phrase ‘Business Technology’ (BT) to describe the ever-increasing reliance on information technology by businesses of all types to handle and optimize their business processes  and the need for a more integrated & holistic approach to the use of business-embedded information technology.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about BT

    The increasing use of the term business technology in IT forums and publications is due to an emerging school of thought that the potential of information technology, its industries and experts, has now moved beyond the meaning of the term. Specifically information is seen by some as a descriptor not broad enough to cover the contribution that technology can make to the success of a business or organization“.

    Focus on Externalization and BT.

    Acceptance of the Externalization trend, and a deep appreciation of ‘Business Technology’ theme, provide the canvas, on which, we can sketch-out the ways in which the IT Department must change to survive. Probably most importantly, the CIO needs to find the time to think strategically: from ‘Whac-A-Mole-IT-Management’  to strategic, Business-Technology leadership. Thinking strategically means the CIO needs to develop a deep appreciation of  the various ‘markets’ his/her team serve, as both a supplier, and a broker of services, to those markets. Such markets exists within and outside the enterprise and are made up of customers, suppliers, intermediaries and other stakeholders. All with differing values and requiring different sensitivities to protect and enhance trust relationships.

    How to prepare for the inevitable change.

    At my current company, we use the ‘BT’ label help position our five-year vision & strategy. It helps frame the discussion about the many areas of change required: cultural, technological, procedural, organizational & regulatory. BT is not, however, a new name-tag for the IT department – it represents the new thinking required across the whole business. It might seem ironic, given the predictions, that it was our CIO who initiated the discussion – I suspect, however, this will often be the case: the CIO is frequently the only C-level executive who has a holistic understanding of both the breadth and depth of the business.

    Back in May this year, I posted about the work we were doing to establish a BT Vision. This has since been developing gradually and is gaining acceptance across the IT senior leadership team, but more importantly, with C-Level executives.

    Recently, I was invited to share, with a large multinational conglomerate, some of the more tangible changes we’re implementing  Our vision & journey towards ‘BT’, and our response to the the ‘Externalization‘ trend set the context for the discussion. Here’s the list of ‘contrasting behaviors‘ I shared: 

    15 ways to change the IT Department’s habits

    Old Habits
     New Habits
    1.The department of ‘No’
    2.Products focus
    3.Internal SLAs
    4.IT Strategy
    5.Cyber security tooling
    6.CAPEX-first mentality
    7.Solution-focused technology architecture
    8.Product standardized IT portfolio management
    9.Governance of large IT projects
    10.IT Cost Centre management
    11.Internal procedures & methods
    12.‘Family’ of IT vendors
    13.Gadget-focused innovation
    14.Periodic, internally-focused, measurement
    15.Technology focus
    1.The department of qualified ‘Yes’
    2.Services focus
    3.Services internal/external ecosystem –SLA-chains
    4.Integrated BT strategy
    5.Cyber security culture
    6.Balanced, outcome-focused, investment
    7.Adaptive, value-focused,  Enterprise Architecture
    8.Principle-led architecture & standards-based integration
    9.Company-wide, joined-up,  BT-governance
    10.BT services broker, innovation-lead and advisory
    11.Internal & external engagement
    12.Consumer-driven, ecosystem of suppliers
    13.Customer-story-based innovation
    14.Constant, external & internal, feedback-loops
    15.Focus on information value & risk

    We’ve made good progress on many of the 15 points, but I’d say the most compelling for the business are: 1) The department of qualified ‘Yes’,  4) Integrated BT strategy, 5) Cyber security culture, and 13) Customer-story-based-innovation. I’m pleased to see these seem resonate with the observations made in the HBR article mentioned above.

    Will the IT department will be dead by 2020?

    Will the need for a central IT department go away by 2020? No, not in our case at least, but it does need to rapidly adapt and evolve and  we believe those  that don’t will become side-lined. We are seeing, however, other businesses taking a different view: there does seem to a dangerous, frustration-with-the-ITD, pattern emerging where IT departments are being split-up into LOB sub-teams, without considering the need for, holistic, enterprise-wide thinking.

    Maybe the IT Department label won’t exist by 2020, but many organizations will require a team that focus on the value of the digitally enabled world that balances agility, resilience, security and cost across the whole enterprise. For these companies, dispersed and unbridled IT (use of consumer-led technologies and commoditized services) would lead to unprecedented levels business risk: operational, financial, commercial, reputational and regulatory. [post addendum: FUD alert! See my response to Nick Gall’s comment].

    My hunch is that, once the hype has died down, the Externalization trend will actually strengthen the need for strategic, less operationally-focused, ‘Office of the CIO’ within organizations. I’m sure, however, such an entity will be unlike today’s ‘Operationally-focused’ IT shop, by 2020.


    Since posting, I was asked where VPEC-T fits in the context of the move towards BT. VPEC-T is a tool for the sense-making of complex systems-of-systems. It deals with the complexities of plurality (e.g.multiple value systems and multiple types of event). Moreover, it is used for sharing stories about such systems which helps: reach common understanding, ensure completeness and make trust explicit. These considerations will be increasingly important in the diverse and emergent world of BT. It’s most applicable to ‘New Habits’ 5,7 & 12-15.
    Here’s an example of the preparation for a VPEC-T workshop based on a real session I ran earlier this year – it might help explain plurality need.