Integrity in Business 1

Change is the only constant these days..

In order to survive and prosper in today’s age any type of change – organizational, business or personal, some basic principles always come into play. These principles are forward thinking and emotionally mature and for those who value integrity above results, and people above profit.

It’s the future. Triple Bottom Line (Profit People Planet), Corporate Responsibility, Fair Trade, Sustainability, etc – these are not just fancy words – they are increasingly and ever more transparently becoming the criteria against which modern successful organizations are assessed – by customers, employees, and the world at large.

This is not to say that results and profit don’t matter, of course they do. The point is that when you value integrity and people, results and profit come quite naturally.

Rattan Tata, one of India’s most successful businessmen, decided early on not to succumb to the corruption that has been rampant in India for many decades. In order to succeed there, one has to bribe the way forward to succeed. He may not have succeeded as fast as he could have, but he stuck to his guns, and decided to follow his own path. Today, Tata is one of the largest companies in India.

What is the true nature of integrity? There are in fact some very basic principles that surround the qualities of business integrity. At its core, integrity begins with a company leader who understands the qualities of integrity which then filters down throughout the company into every department and every employye’s approach and attitude.
In recent research performed by the Institute of Business Ethics- an organization which is among the world’s leaders in promoting corporate ethical best practices, it was found that companies displaying a “clear commitment to ethical conduct” almost invariably outperform companies that do not display ethical conduct. The Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, Philippa Foster Black, stated: “Not only is ethical behavior in the business world the right and principled thing to do, but it has been proven that ethical behavior pays off in financial returns.” These findings deserve to be considered as an important tool for companies striving for long-term prospects and growth.

There are three “fruits” of integrity. The first is trust. Behaving with integrity builds trust among the people you are dealing with. Behaving without integrity builds distrust.

A second fruit of integrity is influence. Integrity creates reputation and sparks imitation; without it, you lack the ability to influence others and events. Influence is essential whether you want to be the leader of a successful organization.

The third fruit of integrity is repeat business. Whether you work in the services industry or manufacturing, acting with integrity almost always translates into more business from satisfied customers, their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and on and on.

These behaviors are instilled in employees through leaders, and this inculcation requires diligence, persistence and ensuring that you ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’.

Inevitably, over time the culture of the company will attract and retain customers and profitability.

Agile – The ability to be adaptable Reply

Conceptually this makes sense in software development. Changing requirements can derail a software development project. Yet there are always changes, and therefore small incremental software releases that build out a product and get in front of the product owner quickly makes sense. Changes can be adapted to quickly rather than re-designing from the ground up.

How about agile project management?

Changing direction on any project can derail the project. The pace of change in today’s world makes it difficult to absorb and manage scope, schedule and budget for successful project delivery.
Agile project management principles allow for flexibility rather than the rigidity of traditional project management methodologies.
The principles behind ‘agile’ is to ‘go live’ with a minimal set of functions to derive an early ROI. Agile processes use self-organizing teams, a rapid pace, and decreased emphasis on detailed planning to allow for flexibility in managing projects.

The project manager works with the customer to ensure that the product backlog is visible and everyone understands that it directs the team to the most profitable and valuable work possible. The project manager uses product increments and demonstrations of working functionality to keep everyone aware of real progress against goals, commitments, and vision of the product.

Traditional plan-driven software methodology uses a command-and-control approach to project management. A project plan is created that lists all known tasks. The project manager’s job then becomes one of enforcing the plan. Changes to the plan are typically handled through “change control “ that add so much bureaucracy that delivery is slowed to the pace that the plan-driven methodology can accommodate.

Agile project management, on the other hand, is much more about leadership than about management. Instead of creating a detailed plan showing the sequence of all activities the agile project manager works with the customer to layout a common understanding from which collaboration can occur. The agile project manager puts forward the vision and then leads the project team to achieve the plan.

Agile project management continuously evaluates time and cost as primary constraints. Rapid feedback, continuous adaptation are built into the team’s schedules, ensuring quality deliverables.

Do you consider application rationalization part of your annual cycle? 3

Information Technology and its applications have become a critical part of today’s business operation. In many companies, CIOs have seat at the table to help determine business and operation strategy to gain a competitive advantage. Equally, CFOs and CEOs are participating in IT decision-making process and are no longer just signatures on the paper. Even the consumer has become IT savvy with the advent of mobile devices and tablets that eliminated the fear if computer for all generation. My father uses his iPad to perform most of his banking tasks, his review of MRI /CT Scan reports and to manage his portfolio. This ‘IT consumerization” has now forced C-Levels to pay attention to how IT in integrated in the business.

You can also see that result in today’s world overall. The uptake of technology has become instantaneous (and many times, not by choice)–as a necessity. Hence the problem. In the race to keep up with technology changes and increasing customer demands for more access, companies are deploying technologies very rapidly. And within that process of doing so, their application portfolio is growing rapidly as well. I have visited many government and commercial companies in this last year alone and I have personally witnessed this as a common problem.

Let me try to put this in context of everyday life.

I don’t know how often you look in your closet–I did it first time in 10 years just the other day. I had shirts and pants in there that I hadn’t worn in those 10 years. I have never really thought about getting rid of those clothes, but now the situation is that there is no more space (although my wife’s clothes do contribute to the problem which, of course, is beside the point and so there is nothing you can do about that). The only option I had was to discard some clothes or buy new house with bigger closet!

Now you may think that buying new house for clothes is an absurd thought, but think about what is happening in companies today. With advent of cloud services (especially infrastructure as a service), it is now very easy to add infrastructure and storage (no it’s not like buying a new house, but it’s certainly akin to renting a storage unit just to store the overflow of a closet full of clothes).  Cloud services have allowed me to continually add new technologies and applications. And just like I reached the threshold in my personal clothes closet, a great number of companies are going to soon realize (if they haven’t already) that the IT bill is only going to go up–not down. So the cleaning out of “the closet” will soon be a must in most cases.

CIOs are now struggling to keep control over proliferation of data and security of data. It is an increasing number of controls from an SOX perspective. Does this sound familiar? So what is the solution? Conceptually, the solution is very a simple one–provided in the “closet example:” I went through my closet, made three piles of clothes. One pile was the clothes I wear all the time. The second was a pile of clothes that I wear some of the time depending on occasion, and the third was a pile of clothes that I did not wear. I kept the first and second pile. I made another run through the third pile and took out couple of items that had sentimental value and donated the rest. I have also promised myself that “cleaning out my clothes closet” would now be an annual exercise. Naturally it is very easy in this case (of the closet), but in the case of application, the same concept also needs to be applied.

Application Rationalization is a key component for organizations and for every CIO so that he/she can ensure the organization’s IT is performing its role to stay in synch with its competitive positioning in the business world.  There are also two things that make IT application rationalization very difficult.  Organization Change and Data Proliferation. However, it’s similar to being able to ride a bicycle. Initially it’s difficult to implement, but once you have the processes in place and governance structure in place it will become much more natural (notice I did not say it was easy!). In my opinion, this needs to be part of every organization’s annual budget cycle. This is an area where the other C-level managers need come together with the CIO to perform the analysis.

In the age of Cloud Computing and Modern Application, be aware that you may have application that is mission critical and is still running on older platform. Application modernization methods are the needs of the moment and it is important to take a very systematic and detailed, but (at the same time) very agile approach to portfolio rationalization. Application modernization methods also combine application modernization as well as new technology selection/incorporation as part of a balanced approach to application rationalization. Gartner’s Pace Layered Application Strategy provides a good explanation of this and is well worth the read. This is really a very simple concept to understand, and fairly easy to learn how to segment an application portfolio and go through rationalization process. It is how I decided to make three piles of clothes from my closet.

I suggest that you keep your organization clutter free. Keep the focus on your consolidation and modernization approach while embracing advances in technology. This can be made possible by taking control of ALL APPLICATIONS and DATA (modern and legacy) and making those items part of an annual cycle to rationalize and consolidate. If done correctly (the right methodology, governance and discipline), this annual or regular task will provide your organization with a focused ability to be able to keep up with ever-changing IT landscape (if not full, at least partial). More importantly, IT will become your tool for growth and not burden on the organization.