Strategy: 10 Steps to Building a Multimillion Dollar GovCon Business

US CapitolI spent over 10 years in Government Contracting/Consulting (GovCon) in roles ranging from software development, web development, project management, and product development to leading capture and proposal teams. I helped build a $25 million per year enterprise collaboration software practice supporting civil, military, and law enforcement agencies across the federal government.I say all of this a show that it is possible for anyone to successful sell products and services to the government. This is not just for technology and services. I personally know multiple founders of GovCon businesses that generate $25-50 million in annual revenue.

Most people believe that winning government contracts is difficult full of hurdles and paperwork. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The key is understanding the details and building a network of contract officers, consultants, peers, mentors, and other experts in the GovCon market. Below are 10 steps from the FDIC guidance on bcoming a government contractor. Over time, most motivated entrepreneurs can build a multimillion dollar GovCon business.

1. Decide what you are going to sell.

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what products or services you will sell. To start, investigate ways that your business can fill existing needs in the federal government. Then, find out how federal agencies can purchase these products and services. If you sell something the government buys routinely, it probably appears in a GSA schedule. For less common products, log on to the Federal Procurement Data System, which records detailed information on most of the government’s past purchases. Additionally, each agency produces a procurement forecast with contact information; you can find these forecasts at FedBizOpps.gov (fbo.gov), the government’s exhaustive contract solicitation website.

2. Gain an Understanding of the Basics.

Do your homework. Make sure you understand the whole process of government contracting so you know what you’re getting into and can be well-prepared. The intricacies of government contracting can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get mired in the details, but if you want to be a government contractor, you need to master and move beyond the basics. To gain a command of the basics, seek out expertise from the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov), consultants, peers, mentors, and others to learn how government contracting works.

3. Register Your Business.

If you do not already have a “DUNS Number,” contact Dun & Bradstreet at http://www.dnb.com to obtain one. Your DUNS Number is an important “identifier” that is used for a multitude of purposes by the federal government in the contracting arena. Next, you must be registered in Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database to be awarded a federal contract. The CCR database holds information relevant to procurement and financial transactions. Help government procurement officers find you by including the optional federal codes for your product categories and keywords that indicate past performance. Once registered in the CCR database, businesses that meet the government’s definition of small are prompted to create a profile, which procurement officers and others can then find using the Small Business Administration’s Dynamic Small Business Search database. Lastly, go to Online Certification and Representation Application (ORCA) at http://www.bpn.gov in order to enter your business’ representations and certifications, which is mandatory for submission of sealed bids or requests for proposals.

4. Get Certified.

The federal government sets aside contracts under $100,000 for certified small businesses, and regulations often encourage procurement officers to reserve larger contracts for small businesses, as well. Determine if your business qualifies for local and federal small business certification programs. The Small Business Administration has three contracts-related certification programs:  8(a) Business Development, Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), and HUBZone certification. To learn more about these programs and to determine if your business qualifies, go to the appropriate SBA website at http://www.sba.gov/8abd, http://www.sba.gov/sdb, or http://www.sba.gov/hubzone.

5. Build and Grow Your Network.

Networking is an important part of government contracting. To do it well, you need to learn that it isn’t always about what you want, but how you can help someone else. Learning to listen and find out what others need is critical. Take advantage of events hosted by the SBA, the Department of Labor, and other agencies to meet Contracting Officers and learn what their needs are. Depending on your product or service, don’t hesitate to lend it out or do a demo at the agency—the more they can see, the more inclined they will be to buy. At the same time, selling to the government is different from selling to the private sector. Extreme aggressiveness can be perceived negatively, and might be a deterrent rather than an incentive. Consider giving government buyers a concise capabilities statement for your business. From there, try to get as close to the person using the product as possible so that the user becomes your advocate. Networking is critical to finding out about new opportunities and meeting strategic partners and advisors.

6. Develop Your Strategy

Once you’re organized for growth, identify and target specific agencies and decision makers with whom you want to build relationships. To really add value, resist the temptation to give them a product pitch; instead, go into listening mode. Identify the challenges the agency is facing and the emerging trends that may affect the organization. Then, determine whether your offerings resonate with the audience, and, if not, why. Ask decision makers to share what they are looking for, and how your business could be of value. With this information, you can build a detailed profile of your target and hone your value proposition accordingly. Then, it’s important to define your expected sales capture/win rate, and measure it weekly to gauge your performance.

7. Prepare Your Team.

Before your business is awarded its first contract, prepare your team to support the government’s needs. Identify internal skill sets that could be leveraged once your business begins doing business with the federal government. Next, improve workflows to ensure that the right systems and processes are in place to quickly deliver as promised. Lastly, find talent that can fulfill both the sales and the “capture management” roles of your contracts. Your talent is not likely to be one individual. Your best salesperson should be charming and adept at connecting with people. Yet once the opportunity is identified, a different person should execute the bid strategy to ensure that you meet requirements and are poised to win.

8. Identify Opportunities.

Many contract opportunities worth more than $25,000 are published on www.FedBizOpps.gov. In 2008, some 45,000 solicitations appeared on the site. If your product or service is either off the shelf or widely used across the government, chances are it’s listed on a Federal Supply Schedule managed by the General Services Administration (www.gsa.gov). With GSA schedules, the government negotiates low prices with a variety of sellers, typically for five-year periods with options to renew. State and local governments may also use GSA schedules for technology and disaster-preparedness products. A business can apply to become a scheduled vendor by responding to the schedule’s standing solicitation. As part of your solicitation, you will have to submit to a “past performance evaluation” of your commercial sales. However, even if the government accepts your offer and lists you on a schedule, it won’t guarantee a purchase. You will still have to market yourself as you would with any prospective client.

9. Explore subcontracting.

Subcontracting represents a huge opportunity in many sectors. As the number of businesses selling to government agencies grows, there may be more of a need for the product or service you sell. Some small businesses begin working with the government through subcontracting because it allows them to gain experience while preparing to bid on their own contracts. To find out more:

10. Place your bid.

Government bid solicitations can be daunting. With attachments, they can easily run a hundred pages. Read them carefully. The government takes all its rules seriously, and you can be disqualified from participation for submitting an offer that is, for example, too long. Additionally, make sure you understand all the terms of the proposed contract. Many of these will be stated in the solicitation, but many others will be incorporated from other sources, particularly the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the set of rules that governs procurement. Don’t waste your time with the entire FAR, but be sure to read the contract provisions that are referenced in the solicitation. If your offer is not accepted, ask for a debriefing from the contracting agency. Most times, they will give it to you, and they will tell you why you weren’t chosen. Debriefs are important in helping you grow, and you should take advantage of the opportunity. Finally, be realistic about your capabilities. The government relies on past performance when deciding to award a contract. If small businesses get in over their heads on their first government contract, then chances of repeat work are slim. Start with a smaller project you know you can do well and prove yourself.


Daniel is a digital consultant specializing in IT advisory on technology strategy, investment, and implementation. He helps companies solve complex and strategic problems across multiple industries and domains. His drive to find solutions for clients and attain personal growth for himself is what keeps him at the forefront of innovation and helps him guide teams and organizations to cultivate amazing products and services. He can be found on Twitter at @dewilliams.

Strategy: The What and the How of Technology Strategy

compass-imageImagine I tell you that I want to go to San Francisco from LA. You then begin plans to determine the best way to travel to SF by either car, plane, or boat. After careful analysis, you select flight as the most efficient way to get us to SF and begin working on travel plans and booking flights. About midway through your work to get us to SF, I come back and say actually, Toronto is a much better destination. How would you feel if the tickets had been purchased and lodging booked? This is what many clients do to their teams by believing that the project objectives are fluid and can be a “living document” to be changed anytime. This the “what” part of tech strategy (what are we doing, what is the destination etc.) that I believe is critical to defining before you get to the “how” (how are we building this, how are we getting to the destination, etc.) of any project.

Let’s be honest, defining the “what” part of tech strategy is hard work and is commonly avoided or giving very minimal attention from managers and executives before they embark on that high-profile digital initiative. It is what causes many tech teams, designers, and PM’s to pull out their hair as they attempt to lock down the objective of a project while being simultaneously pushed to “just build the damn thing and get it launched.”

So how do we avoid this headache and get stakeholders to agree on objectives that provide the team with a compass to find the project’s “True North?” My advice is to be honest with managers, executives, and clients. Let them know that by “evolving” goals, they are forcing the team to constantly find a moving target. This typically results in increased costs, delayed or canceled projects, and a huge hit to team morale. By defining the objectives upfront, the success metrics can be defined and measured upfront. If the metrics dictate a pivot, you have the data to back up a change in strategy. This is why it is critical to define the “what” in your tech or digital strategy.

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Daniel is a digital consultant specializing in IT advisory on technology strategy, investment, and implementation. He helps companies solve complex and strategic problems across multiple industries and domains. His drive to find solutions for clients and attain personal growth for himself is what keeps him at the forefront of innovation and helps him guide teams and organizations to cultivate amazing products and services. He can be found on Twitter at @dewilliams.

Problem Solving: Fix the Toxic Corporate Culture that is Stifling Innovation and Market Value

It was years ago, but I can still remember the madness that surrounded me. The IT organization was a complete mess and filled with chaos. They were kept at arms-length by the business and marketing teams. They were not included in the detailed discussions involving new innovation. The digital marketing team even created their own little IT team to avoid the toxicity. Coming out of this environment (and similar situations over the last 15 years, I have learned how to identify and navigate the murky waters to solve multimillion dollar challenges. Using a model similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which many people should be familiar with (or at least remember bits of it from high school or college). As a refresher, the hierarchy is more of a theory that lists the stages of growth that humans go through generally in life. The stages identified by Maslow are:

  • physiological needs (basic physical requirements for human survival),
  • safety needs (personal, financial, health, etc. security),
  • belonging and love needs (friendships, intimacy, family),
  • esteem needs (respect from others and self-respect)
  • self-actualization (a person’s full potential and realization of that full potential), and
  • self-transcendence (focus on a higher outside goal, altruism, or spirituality).

As I have spent the last 18 years in and around technology, I noticed a familiar theme in dealing with IT organizations, digital teams, and IT acquisitions, what I call an “IT Hierarchy of Needs.” This hierarchy is a stack of needs that can increase the likelihood that your IT strategy, implementation, and ongoing innovation will succeed. Although, this theory is not a guarantee of success, ignoring these organizational needs will increase your probability of failure.

  1. Physiological Needs (working space, offices, open working environment, collaboration spaces)

    The physiological needs for an IT organization focus on providing an open working space that is collaborative and fosters the sharing of ideas. If your IT team is walled off from the rest of the organization or is kept out of the loop during digital strategy, technology assessments, and vetting of new solutions, then you are handicapping your ability to build real value for your customers.

  2. Safety Needs (IT security, cyber capabilities, security awareness, information safety best practices)

    Once the basic physical needs are met, and your IT team is in physical proximity to the business teams, the next step if security and safety. Recall that “a chain is only as strong as it’s the weakest link,” well an organization is only as safe as it’s the weakest point. To strengthen the weak points, educating staff on security best practices is key. Many cyber programs implement ongoing security testing across the organization, randomly sending decoy spam and phishing scams via email. More organizations need to implement these practices especially in light of the 2016 election hacking by Russia on political organizations in the U.S. Contact and communications from unfamiliar sources should be immediately forwarded to cyber personnel for review and evaluation.

  3. Belonging and Love Needs (friendships, trust, real collaboration)

    Once staff feels like they are safe and secure in their physical environment, they can start to build relationships within their group and across the organization. These relationships, collaboration, and information sharing should be encouraged visibly from the CEO down to facilities staff. I remember working for a client where it was actively encouraged for their employees to not share insights and data across divisions. The leaders of this organization assumed this would create competition and lead to better performance. The actual outcome was decreased market share, disgruntled employees, and an environment where the only people able to get work done were the consultants billing $200-$500/hr. This reminds me a saying that rings true: “There is always money to be made in chaos.” In order to save time and money, break down the silos and incentivize staff to build connections. I have personally benefited from building relationships everywhere that I have worked or consulted, getting to know the business, technology stack, and key decision-makers. This approach allowed me to identify the top pain points and problems across the organization and share these insights with anyone that would listen (not hoarding knowledge like a secret pot of gold).

  4. Esteem Needs (respect from others and self-respect)

    Once real relationships have been established based on mutual trust and friendship (not the passive-aggressiveness common in the corporate world), information is being shared, and problems and being identified and solved collaboratively, 2 interesting things happen: 1) respect starts to build between people and groups, and 2) self-respect starts to grow among individuals based on their positive impact on their team, department, the organization, the industry, etc. As proof, look at the reviews of any company on Glassdoor. You will see a common theme develop. Organizations that foster positive physical environments, safety, and security, and encourage real collaboration, relationship-building, solicit problem-solving and innovative ideas have the highest ratings. Companies that do none of these activities will have the poorest ratings.

  5. Self-actualization (organizational full potential and realization of that full potential)

    For many organizations, there is a wide gap between their full potential and the value that they actually create and deliver. As stated in the previous section, most of this can be identified by not implementing the practices outlined here. When staff and leaders are focused on dealing with silos, internal fighting, employee morale, and lack of new ideas, they can’t focus on what the organization’s full potential and how to get there. Many times, it never occurs that there is a better way to operate. However, once the previous steps are in place, this opens the door to a wide world of new ideas, problem-solving, value, innovation, and market share.

  6. Self-transcendence (focus on a higher outside goal, altruism, social/societal good)

    Once an organization is thriving internally, increased market share, customer value, staff morale, etc., they can then turn outward to more altruistic activities. These activities transcend the organization, founders, and executives by focusing on one or more societal challenges that can and should be addressed. For example, the Gates Foundation was formed after Microsoft and Bill Gates had accomplished most of the activities outlined here (Microsoft went through a period of malaise after Gates stepped down as CEO, but has since returned to its former glory). Warren Buffett is focused on his Giving Pledge now that the legacy of Berkshire Hathaway is established. There are many, many other examples that I can give of organizational self-transcendence, but hopefully, this is enough for now.

Daniel is a digital consultant specializing in IT advisory on technology strategy, investment, and implementation. He helps companies solve complex and strategic problems across multiple industries and domains. His drive to find solutions for clients and attain personal growth for himself is what keeps him at the forefront of innovation and helps him guide teams and organizations to cultivate amazing products and services. He can be found on Twitter at @dewilliams.

Problem Solving: 5 Reasons Staff Augmentation Sucks and What to Do About It

In my role selling professional consulting services and IT solutions to Fortune 500 customers, I see a variety of support models ranging from simple staff augmentation to large-scale managed services contracts. Although best practices across multiple industries over the last 10 years has seen a gradual migration away from staff augmentation towards managed services, I still see push back for various logical (and illogical) reasons.

What if there was a intermediate step between staff-aug and managed services? Fortunately, there is such a step called “Managed Capacity.” This support model combines many of the perceived benefits of staff augmentation (flexibility, onboarding consultants quickly) with the benefits of managed services (vendor takes on responsibilities for deliverables, outcomes, and management of resources). We still recommend that clients start on the path to managed services, but we have seen the best outcomes when customers start with managed capacity to get accustomed to an outcome-based support model, then move to managed services with all of the enterprise advantages that it brings. Here are the 5 signs you are ready and should move from staff augmentation to managed capacity.

  1. Reason #1: You are seeing budget constraints from unplanned staffing or project costs.
    Every organization experiences unplanned costs due to staffing, projects, or changes in direction / strategy. Unfortunately, the easiest (and costliest) way to deal with this is to throw more bodies at the issue through staffing. In my experience, we have helped clients work through these issues via managed capacity where we take on the burden of managing deliverables, outcomes, and time/cost tracking.
  2. Reason #2: You aren’t seeing the project outcomes / progress that you expect from your vendors.
    No enterprise project portfolio is perfect and issues / failures do happen. However, if you are seeing a pattern of delays, quality issues, and/or project failures, then maybe the delivery model needs to be adjusted. One question I get from customers is “How would managed capacity help with project delays/failures?” One way in which managed capacity helps is the focus on delivery of required skills to get the project done and not just a “butt in a seat.” Secondly, customers get predictable and cost-effective outcomes. Third and most importantly, customers get active knowledge management that is retained and shared across the customer and project teams, reducing the risk of valuable IC leaving the if there is staff turnover.
  3. Reason #3: You constantly need to ramp teams up and down quickly for new projects or initiatives.
    Projects are one of the core elements of an enterprise and ideally, you would only work on planned projects on a carefully crafted roadmap. However, anyone that spent any time on a medium-to-large organization call attest that this is not always possible due to competing priorities, internal politics, and sometime just dumb luck. This is where managed capacity can help manage the shock of fluctuating project needs by outsourcing the overhead and maintenance of staff capacity to an external vendor with the experience and track record of outcome-based delivery.
  4. Reason #4: You are working on new, complex projects requiring specialized skills.
    Many projects that enterprises undertake are pretty routine and straightforward (maintenance, enhancements, etc.). However, in order to stay competitive, organizations must innovate with complex projects requiring specialized skills such as new application development, data migration, cloud migration, or new strategy development. Managed Capacity allows us to support a range of skills with minimal risk to the customer. We take on the staffing, deliverable, and outcome risks of complex projects where there many “unknown unknowns.”
  5. Reason #5: You are facing new threats (internal and external) and need your project teams to be more efficient and effective.
    There are always new threats to your organization (both internal and external) that you need to address and overcome on a daily basis. How you take on these threats can affect your success or failure in the short-, medium-, and long-term. If you go with a pure staffing model, you will get the ramp up in bodies, but what is the guarantee that you will have the staff you need in the right place at the right time? With new pressures from large enterprises, SMBs and startups, the ability to deliver better outcomes at a lower overall cost could be the key to your organization keeping into advantages and the key to your individual success as a manager or executive.

If you are interested in learning more about managed capacity or managed services, feel free to contact me in the comments or on LinkedIn.

Tech Strategy (SaaS): How to Not Get Blindsided

 

In a press release from Gartner, Inc. in October 2016, analysts discuss the growth in overall worldwide IT spending in the coming years, “forecast to reach $3.5 trillion in 2017, up 2.9 percent from 2016 estimated spending of $3.4 trillion.”

The bright spots mentioned in the report are the software and IT services segments. Gartner projected software spending to grow 6 percent in 2016, and another 7.2 percent in 2017 to total $357 billion (see table below). IT services spending is on pace to grow 3.9 percent in 2016 to reach $900 billion, and increase 4.8 percent in 2017 to reach $943 billion.

Of particular interest to me is the software segment as this is the world that I live in every day helping clients develop and deliver innovative software products and applications. I have seen the trend each year skew more and more to “cloud-first” or “SaaS-model.” These numbers firmly backup what I’ve seen first-hand, that SaaS will overtake traditional software development sooner than most business leaders and executives think.

For example, according to IDC, the cloud software market reached $48.8 billion in revenue all the way back in 2014. This represented a 24.4% YoY growth rate from 2013. IDC predicts cloud software to surpass $112.8 billion by 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3%. If you take the Gardner forecast for software with it’s projected growth rate of 1.2% from 2016 (6%) to 2017 (7.2%), and project that out to 2019, software will represent roughly 10.4% of total IT spending or $377 billion. Of this projected $377 billion in software spending, SaaS will have captured 29.9%.

IDC goes on to state that “SaaS delivery will significantly outpace traditional software product delivery, growing nearly five times faster than the traditional software market and becoming a significant growth driver to all functional software markets.” By 2019, IDC predicts the cloud software model will account for nearly $1 of every $4.59 spent on software.

Why is this important? It depends on your perspective and role in an organization.

  • If you are a developer, and have not jumped fully into cloud-based development, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? This is a fundamental shift in the technology landscape. As big an opportunity as those that learned HTML in the early days of the Internet. This is just as big.
  • If you are a product or project manager, you will (and should) seek out the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver new applications and features for your customers. SaaS and cloud represent this path for you.
  • If you are a business manager, you will need to be familiar with modern approaches to application development to adjust your expectations and broaden your imagination to what is now possible with a “cloud-first” model.
  • If you are an IT manager, you will need to be well-versed in cloud-based approaches to software development and delivery in anticipation of questions and concerns from your counterparts in the business and product teams. This includes knowledge in areas such as containers, orchestration, 12 Factors, cloud platforms (AWS, GKE, Azure, etc.) and the pros and cons of each platform. How will you organize your existing applications and make the move to the cloud? How will you maintain legacy apps in the datacenter and newer apps now deployed to the cloud?
  • If you are an executive (business, IT product, ops, etc.), you should treat cloud-first as a priority and incorporate it into your strategic plans if you have not done so already. This represents one of the biggest shifts in business and tech since the Internet and the companies that make the move early will dominate. The companies that take a “wait and see” approach will get left behind wondering what happened.

Applications have gotten infinitely more complex over the last 20 years, but the complexity is going to get even bigger with everything related to SaaS and cloud apps being software and governed by software.

If you are interested in how to get a handle your software applications and projects (traditional or cloud-based), check out Mindsight.io, a startup that I am currently advising. They are building tools to increase transparency of software projects, track productivity of the team and ensure the accuracy of their estimates. Mindsight will also enable predictive analytics around software risks, user stories, and code releases.

Tech Advisor: Meeting the Challenges of the Modern CIO

In many Chief Information Officer (CIO) organizations, there is a perception by customers that CIO capabilities can be very limited. In these types of environments, information technology (IT) is viewed more as a cost than a strategic investment. In these cases, customers may only work with the CIO organization for network issues of email problems. To the customer, the CIO may meet their expectations in dealer with an issue, but falls short in providing continuous strategic value. However, the modern CIO can take a lead role in changing that limited perception, moving the organization toward fully leveraging IT to provide real strategic value to the enterprise.

Meeting the Challenges of the Modern CIO (PDF 1.37 MB)

Tech Strategy: What’s Holding Back Your Digital Transformation

 

For the last 15 years, I have focused on identifying and building new solutions that solve unique problems for public and private sector organizations. In that time, I have come across many obstacles causes gaps and finger-pointing between business and IT teams. Many of these gaps have delayed or impeded progress, thus causing quite a bit of pain for team members, stakeholders, executives and even customers as progress isn’t being made on the tasks at hand. Below I outline the six reasons I believe are the top contributors to the ever growing gap between business operations and IT that are possibly holding back you and your company’s digital transformation goals.

digital transformation
The Land of Digital Transformation Utopia

1. Conflicting Objectives and Strategies

In most large organizations, IT and other company business groups evolve in separate but necessary directions in order to accomplish what that division is tasked to. The IT group focuses more on the basic IT hierarchy as it relates to the needs on the overall business (network, security, email, hardware, software, back and front office, etc.). Business groups evolve to solve the needs the customers (marketing, products, services ¬– e.g. consumer value). Based on this simple description, it would seem that both groups work together in a sort of layered or tiered model, with IT supporting the business and business supporting the customers. In reality, this is usually not the case. What you often find are silos where everyone is working on their own projects with little collaboration with other groups.

Business teams normally look for an opportunity in the market to increase revenue, decrease costs, or improve performance. This can take the form of a new or improved product or service. It can take the form of automating previously manual processes, or it could simply be to phase out redundant or legacy solutions.

IT teams normally look to balance IT stability with incremental improvements to their tech stack. This is where the divergence rears its ugly head and we begin to hear rumblings about IT holding the business back from its digital dreams. This stability is necessary in a functioning organization and without it there would be chaos and constant executive escalations.

2. Different Priorities

Business and IT inherently have different priorities given their perspective with the organization. IT’s basic function is tech stability whereas the business is focused on bringing new revenue and even disrupting current tech to make way for innovative ways to serve customers. This is where we typically see conflicts with the organization with finger-pointing on failed or delayed initiatives (“IT is holding us back” or “the business needs to understand this IT program is a critical initiative”). So how do we bridge the divide with not only different, but also conflicting priorities?

This is where strong digital project managers (PMs) can provide the most value as they have the deep technical experience and strong understanding of the needs of the business come in handy. Digital PMs are able to accomplish this through hands-on working sessions using the “post-it note” process to digital portfolio reviews that include stakeholders from both the business and IT to ensure priorities are aligned. There are many are tools that are available to digital transformation teams to bridge the gap which I plan to discuss in future posts.

3. Different Definitions of Measurement

Having spent a number of years in IT before moving on to management consulting and digital marketing of enterprise retail, I understand that different groups across an organization will define and measure success based on their own objectives within the organization. The IT team normally measure success in terms of the technology (uptime, page speed, bps) or project implementation (time, budget, scope). The business teams attempt to measure success in terms of business drivers cost reduction, revenue, leads, and profit. However, when IT and business groups come together to achieve a common goal such as digital transformation, their needs to be common criteria to define and measure success. From cloud migration to API implementation, success lies in the initial rounds of communication can ensure that end goals and KPIs are met.

In order to achieve communication success, the best approach is to properly onboard all necessary teams to the project so that they understand the business drivers of the project and can define IT metrics that can be tracked and support the overall initiative. For example, if the business driver is to increase customer account registrations by 50 percent over the next six months, IT would be expected to deliver a solution that removes a friction to the sign-up process (showing an increase in sign-up completions) and has been deployed to production (well before six months). Too often we see IT teams come to the table with a solution that takes six to nine months for implementation and is not focused on the business value (increased sign-ups in this example). By using an onboarding approach, both business and IT can have alignment on what is important (KPIs related to what should be tracked and measured).

4. Lack of Customer Understanding

Have you ever filled out an online survey or given feedback on the user experience on a website? If so, there is a very high probability that your feedback was presented to a few stakeholders in marketing, but never made it past that single presentation. When the planning for the next redesign or product iteration begins, all of that valuable customer feedback is either forgotten or deprioritized in favor of other stakeholder requests (executives, senior managers, and more). What is needed to solve this problem is a simple process to ensure that customer feedback flows into the release planning for the future enhancements. If these are paying customers, then their feedback should get pushed to the top of the list at least for a proper review.

5. Too Many Silos and “Fiefdoms”

Maybe it is my background of working with the military and law enforcement throughout my career, but I found myself accustomed to always have a senior officer, commander, or even civilian manager that could resolve disputes between two different but equal groups. In the private sector, this is a luxury that I sometimes miss dearly. The many siloed organizations; the fiefdoms that spring up to protect a manager or executive’s personal priorities are the very obstacles that block true digital transformation as these fiefdoms fight progress for the whole in favor of the status quo for the few. Until these silos are knocked down, true progress cannot be made to bring an organization into a digital 21st century. In many cases, the only option is to spin out a “tiger team” that is completely separate from the larger organization to is then capable of delivering the true promise of digital transformation.

6. Access to Data and Services via Simple/Easy-to-Use APIs

In looking at the success digital and tech projects that I have led and been at part of throughout my career, I can see a common thread across all of them: access to data via easy, simple APIs. This allowed our teams to quickly prototype ideas throwing out the bad and keeping what works for continual improvement. The APIs were available with simple web-based documentation, there was no need to set up a project to access the API, and there were no “gatekeepers” exercising an API tax (this is more common in larger organizations and one of the main causes of failed integration projects).

There are quite a few API solutions that are available that make this digital transition APIs to easier. But first there needs to be a top-down directive that all data within the organization will be accessible via API and there will be no “walled gardens” or project “taxes” to access these APIs. Amazon took this approach in the early 2000’s and we see the results. I am ended this post on this topic and the outline of the Jeff Bezos’ directive because I believe this is most critical point to digital success:

All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.

Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.

There will be no other form of inter-process communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.

It doesn’t matter what technology they use.

All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.

Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.

I will borrow one final bullet to this list from Steve Yegge’s Google Platform Rant that I believe is critical for anyone that reads this post, works in an organization that has not begun it’s digital transformation (or in the midst of transformation), and does not feel a sense of urgency:

I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the
closer we get to being Too Late.

Tech Strategy: People Process Technology Strategy for Enterprise 2.0

Most people think of Enterprise 2.0 of Enterprise Collaboration as a particular set of technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and profiles. Others describe it as simply the ability to share information or knowledge within the enterprise. However, these definitions are inadequate–Enterprise 2.0 is the ability to leverage business and IT strategy together to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of technology initiatives. Therefore, to establish Enterprise 2.0 means organizations must choose and measure IT projects on the basis of three criteria: 1) does it increase revenue, 2) does it cut costs, and/or 3) does it increase performance. Enterprise 2.0 is not simply a series of technology tools, but a transformation of the enterprise mindset to build strategy to address business requirements that realize cost savings, performance improvement and if possible, new innovative sources of revenue.

People, Process, Technology Strategy for Enterprise 2.0 (PDF 1.04 MB)