Why the SMB/SME holds all the aces when it comes to IT

I know you probably wanted me to tell you how unfair and inequitable the world is and how tough it is to be small. We’re in that sort of phase just now. Well you are going to be disappointed, but I challenge you to read on anyhow.
Not only is it easier, cheaper and less risky to implement state of the art IT, but rarely do your big brothers tap into the advantage effectively once they have implemented it. Now there is a new twist that puts the smaller business back at the cutting edge.

Small is beautiful when it comes to costs

When I rolled out a nine million pound IT investment for a government department, I spent more than a million getting the messages through to the workforce that things would be changing and preparing them and yet another million fighting the bonfires to get it rolled out and accepted.
When I rescued a large project a few years ago, they had already spent close on a million on feasibility and had got nowhere with it.
Implementing a mission critical system for a huge nationwide organisation, I got to roll-out stage and not even the CEO could make IT go any faster, we waited three months while they  put us off with new problems each day and they negotiated for increased budgets for running the system that would have supported a medium sized island, despite having agreed all of this previously at planning stage. Each slight effort from IT requires forms, a process and a very long wait.(Partly justified, because bigger IT comes with bigger risks).

Small is beautiful when it comes to change

Bringing about even fairly small changes in a very big organisation is slow, very expensive and not at all guaranteed.  The employees have no sense of connection to anything , or anyone, it’s just a huge employer and change is inconvenient. Customers have a stronger relationship with the brand than employees with their management and shareholders. Established employees can easily resist change without suffering any consequences and often do so just to prove that they can.

When a big business is forced to compete with small business on a level playing field, it is like a train attempting to  catch a rabbit.  Trains are only good for long straight and fairly even roads. While the train is moving the tracks, the rabbit is enjoying the grass on a greener slope.

Business case

The average cost of a feasibility study and business case for a large business today is estimated at around £60,000. There are more stakeholders with more complex propositions and communication grinds to a slow shuffle. There is usually little or no true big picture and everything you produce then has to be reviewed on the basis of, “do I really look like that that?” .I recently completed a feasibility and prepared a business case for a large SME/SMB and it cost just  £7k.
Rapid painless implementation
When that business described above comes to implement their plans, the system will be hosted on the cloud without a single click of a mouse by their IT department and it will be running and operational in a one day.
It will have world class back-up, disaster recovery, failover and  all the things an SME/SMB struggles to afford and  it will be maintained 24/7.
They won’t buy any hardware or purchase anything up front and their modest budget will be spent on improving their business to take advantage of the new system’s capability, communicating their requirements accurately to the service provider, training people to make their lives easier and their jobs more secure with this new super tool and getting their data into good shape to take maximum advantage.
 Dynamics of IT investment for the SME/SMB
 Where has all the money gone?
 About the author

 

 

 

Four foundations of change management.

The phase of an organisational change

1. The organisation and the individuals that comprise it are different issues
2. Changing attitudes is achieved one by one, changed behaviour is a group activity
3. The change agent is not leading or driving but acting as a catalyst and facilitator
4. The change agent and his peers must be united in rationale and in mutual support
Silos, individuals and a single team – Exploding the myth.
“All for one and one for all” is a load of old c.’’@’., s
There is no single team, not even in top flight football. There are individuals and silos that have sufficient common cause, mutually understood process, just sufficient mutual trust and just sufficient understanding of the team dynamic to get the job done. And that’s as good as it gets.
Silos are not all bad, they are just teams with the wrong focus
Let’s not be too hard on Silos. First of all the gurus that designed what has become the modern organisation started off by designing silos. Quality people who never make anything, HR people who never manage anyone, Project managers with no reports and on and on.
It’s not surprising for example, that accounts like each other’s company and that they do battle with sales who are keen to give bigger discounts and more added value.
In the pecking order of the organisation, it is inevitable that some people will find their corner of the pond in favour or out of favour at different times and will then form a silo of their own.
Silos are created to protect ill gotten gains or to defend against a perceived threat. When the Normans invaded England and when the British invaded America, the first thing they did was build a great defensive silos and climb inside it.

Changing individual behaviour is not the same as changing individuals
The first is your moral duty the second is morally wrong unless you are a therapist working with the persons consent.
Managing individuals in the workplace must be done with complete respect for the individuals private psychological space.  Only behaviour is monitored or commented on.
E.G. An individual may ignore the new procurement dept and call a supplier directly. This is not perverting the system, it is not obstructing change, it is not being awkward or being anything! It is just making a single error of behaviour. It should be treated that way.

Listen to them and hear them, understand their views on office  politics and territorial behaviour and empathise with their fears, but don’t blame them for feeling fear.
Every reaction is an action and every action results in a reaction.
Don’t react to behaviour that is not what you hoped for. Each action will bring an equal and opposite reaction and hence people become entrenched. Let it ride and approach it positively at an appropriate time when the message will be received and no threat will be felt.

Walk a bit in their shoes
You can never expect to be listened to, or to be heard, until you are seen making a genuine effort to understand the other point of view. That’s a big leap of faith on your behalf, but until you accept it and make, it you can never expect that same leap of faith from the other individual.
Stop and think about it, if you are not prepared to listen, you have already discounted that individual completely and are therefore imposing your will with force on them, be it for good or bad.  That is a sure fired recipe for resistance and reaction.
Make sure you have a rational you can really believe and evangelise before you start work in earnest.
If you are going to lay your sole bare and let them take a pot shot at you in order to earn the right to pitch them, then you had better be very confident and be well prepared. Developing a vision is like developing a value proposition for a new product, you need to start with experts and test on real customers until you hone it into something that is bomb proof, and boiled down enough to pitch someone going the opposite way on an escalator.
Remove and allay fear to accelerate change
When people are being asked to change the way they work and abandon skills they have come to rely on for their security, it is not surprising that they will resist.
Winning hearts and minds is important, but it is only one step on the ladder. Once you have convinced them conceptually, you then need to give them the wherewithal to change and a bit of encouragement to make the final move.

Process is a great place to start
Once you have won the conceptual fight, you then need to begin painting in some of the detail. The best way to get a workforce very familiar with a new way for working is by designing and verifying the processes via a systematic approach involving increasing numbers of the workforce as the result becomes more polished and closer to completion.
Involving people in designing their future helps to achieve buy-in and begins the process of transferring ownership from you to them.
Training is a key component
Here is you chance to sweeten the pill by providing new bankable skills through training. Suddenly people are in a classroom situation getting a dress rehearsal and things become much clearer and a lot less fearsome. A change is as god as a rest once the fear has  gone away and with confidence in their new capabilities, you will see a new attitude emerge and a healthy competition will begin to develop.
Tools and systems
When you coax a horse onto a new stable, you often have to face him to the door and stand there a long while until he builds up the courage. Too much pushing can spell disaster and in desperate cases you have to blindfold him, but once he is in there, you close and firmly lock the door.
In our age of automated process, it is almost inevitable that a change brings with it a new set of software tools to support the new processes. These can be seen as an extra hurdle to cross or as a friend and ally.  I tend to see it as an ally, because once the processes are accepted and automated, it has the same effect as closing the stable door. The old is switched off and the new is here to stay.
Now build in excellence
You’ve done the hard work and you now have the most receptive and malleable workforce you will have had for a long time with enthusiasm, self belief and optimism for the future.
All you have to do now is keep it going long enough until it becomes a habit and then develops silos and then the next change comes along and . .
Don’t stop now, build in continuous improvement, teach them to develop better faster processes and tools, encourage innovations and ideas and keep the optimism and dynamism going.

Ed Taaffe

Four foundations of change management.

1. The organisation and the individuals that comprise it are different issues
2. Changing attitudes is achieved one by one, changed behaviour is a group activity
3. The change agent is not leading or driving but acting as a catalyst and facilitator
4. The change agent and his peers must be united in rationale and in mutual support
Silos, individuals and a single team – Exploding the myth.
“All for one and one for all” is a load of old c.’’@’., s
There is no single team, not even in top flight football. There are individuals and silos that have sufficient common cause, mutually understood process, just sufficient mutual trust and just sufficient understanding of the team dynamic to get the job done. And that’s as good as it gets.

Silos are not all bad, they are just teams with the wrong focus
Let’s not be too hard on Silos. First of all the gurus that designed what has become the modern organisation started off by designing silos. Quality people who never make anything, HR people who never manage anyone, Project managers with no reports and on and on.
It’s not surprising for example, that accounts like each other’s company and that they do battle with sales who are keen to give bigger discounts and more added value.
In the pecking order of the organisation, it is inevitable that some people will find their corner of the pond in favour or out of favour at different times and will then form a silo of their own.
Silos are created to protect ill gotten gains or to defend against a perceived threat. When the Normans invaded England and when the British invaded America, the first thing they did was build a great defensive silos and climb inside it.

Changing individual behaviour is not the same as changing individuals
The first is your moral duty the second is morally wrong unless you are a therapist working with the persons consent.
Managing individuals in the workplace must be done with complete respect for the individuals private psychological space. Only behaviour is monitored or commented on.
E.G. An individual may ignore the new procurement dept and call a supplier directly. This is not perverting the system, it is not obstructing change, it is not being awkward or being anything! It is just making a single error of behaviour. It should be treated that way.

Listen to them and hear them, understand their views on office politics and territorial behaviour and empathise with their fears, but don’t blame them for feeling fear.
Every reaction is an action and every action results in a reaction.
Don’t react to behaviour that is not what you hoped for. Each action will bring an equal and opposite reaction and hence people become entrenched. Let it ride and approach it positively at an appropriate time when the message will be received and no threat will be felt.

Walk a bit in their shoes
You can never expect to be listened to, or to be heard, until you are seen making a genuine effort to understand the other point of view. That’s a big leap of faith on your behalf, but until you accept it and make, it you can never expect that same leap of faith from the other individual.
Stop and think about it, if you are not prepared to listen, you have already discounted that individual completely and are therefore imposing your will with force on them, be it for good or bad. That is a sure fired recipe for resistance and reaction.

Make sure you have a rational you can really believe and evangelise before you start work in earnest.
If you are going to lay your sole bare and let them take a pot shot at you in order to earn the right to pitch them, then you had better be very confident and be well prepared. Developing a vision is like developing a value proposition for a new product, you need to start with experts and test on real customers until you hone it into something that is bomb proof, and boiled down enough to pitch someone going the opposite way on an escalator.

Remove and allay fear to accelerate change
When people are being asked to change the way they work and abandon skills they have come to rely on for their security, it is not surprising that they will resist.
Winning hearts and minds is important, but it is only one step on the ladder. Once you have convinced them conceptually, you then need to give them the wherewithal to change and a bit of encouragement to make the final move.

Process is a great place to start
Once you have won the conceptual fight, you then need to begin painting in some of the detail. The best way to get a workforce very familiar with a new way for working is by designing and verifying the processes via a systematic approach involving increasing numbers of the workforce as the result becomes more polished and closer to completion.
Involving people in designing their future helps to achieve buy-in and begins the process of transferring ownership from you to them.

Training is a key component
Here is you chance to sweeten the pill by providing new bankable skills through training. Suddenly people are in a classroom situation getting a dress rehearsal and things become much clearer and a lot less fearsome. A change is as god as a rest once the fear has gone away and with confidence in their new capabilities, you will see a new attitude emerge and a healthy competition will begin to develop.

Tools and systems
When you coax a horse onto a new stable, you often have to face him to the door and stand there a long while until he builds up the courage. Too much pushing can spell disaster and in desperate cases you have to blindfold him, but once he is in there, you close and firmly lock the door.
In our age of automated process, it is almost inevitable that a change brings with it a new set of software tools to support the new processes. These can be seen as an extra hurdle to cross or as a friend and ally. I tend to see it as an ally, because once the processes are accepted and automated, it has the same effect as closing the stable door. The old is switched off and the new is here to stay.
Now build in excellence
You’ve done the hard work and you now have the most receptive and malleable workforce you will have had for a long time with enthusiasm, self belief and optimism for the future.
All you have to do now is keep it going long enough until it becomes a habit and then develops silos and then the next change comes along and . .
Don’t stop now, build in continuous improvement, teach them to develop better faster processes and tools, encourage innovations and ideas and keep the optimism and dynamism going.
Ed Taaffe

Change is not monkey business

Now let me give you a puzzle to solve.
By the way there’s no right or wrong answer to this, but please keep ending them in.
The case study.
Five monkeys were thrown in a cage with a banana on a shelf in the centre.
Each time a monkey approached the banana all the monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water from a hydrant so very soon they began to attack any monkey who approached the banana in order to avoid being sprayed. Then the hydrant was taken away and each monkey was replaced with a new one over a period of months. Each new monkey approached the banana and was immediately beaten up, therefore quickly learning the rules. Eventually there was not a single monkey left who had seen the fire hydrant yet the beatings continued.

The test.

If you were the next monkey to be put in the cage, what would your strategy be?.

If you were a monkey put in the cage to stop them beating each other, how would you approach it?

If you were the scientist controlling the experiment, how would you stop the beatings?

 

Don’t you want your change sir?

Let me ask you a few simple questions. Do you have a favourite tipple?

Why is it your favourite?

Was it always your favourite?

What was your previous favourite?

What made you change?

If you tried your current favourite sooner, would you have had more enjoyment out of life?

Do you think it is likely that one day you will try another drink and like it better?

Maybe you could apply this argument to your job, or hobby if this is more meaningful.

The thing most of get out of this little exercise is the realisation that we probably all miss out on a great deal by being adverse to trying new things until we find ourselves directly in their path and suddenly discover a new source of pleasure or value. The second point that generally emerges from this exercise is the realisation that we are all generally content with adequacy rather than in pursuit of excellence or optimisation of value or pleasure perceived.

Now let’s play for bigger stakes. Does your family have a favourite restaurant? Was this always the case?. How did you arrive at the consensus that this was you favourite restaurant? Are there one or two who don’t agree, but go along to keep the peace?

What would have to happen in order for you to adapt a new restaurant?

What would make you seek out a new one, who would instigate this and how would the decision get made
  I suspect that these simple questions woke a few skeletons in most household cupboards. Hopefully they also lead you to consider how your family deal with these issues. Does one person lay the law down and solve the issue?
  Do you talk it out until there is consensus?
  Do you give way to certain individuals who seem to have the knack of getting their own way?
  Or maybe there’s a close knit clique who stick together and dominate everything. How will you decide whether it was a good decision or whether to keep trying?
  What will make you settle for a new place?
  Fatigue? Lack of ideas? Adequacy? Excellence?

There are many potential ways forward, but that’s not as important as stopping to think about how a close knit organisation with trust and communication go about changing their behaviour in some small way.

A Bridger or a BA how do I choose?

At first glance it may seem that there is little difference between a BA and a Bridger.
First off, it is important to realise that there is more than one flavour of BA and end also more than one flavour of Bridger so every opinion is completely valid. Additionally it is likely that a Bridger will also be an experienced BA or Product manager and some BAs will, knowingly or not, be Bridgers.
In principal I do think it is easy enough to draw some clear comparisons that differentiate the Bridger form the BA.

  1. The profession of BA within the world of IT systems and process automation has evolved almost entirely form the IT profession as opposed to from the Business . Even with a large number of Universities now producing Business Analysts, this has changed little and the curriculum is heavily flavoured with IT as opposed to business. These BAs are really much closer to requirement engineers than Business Analysts in my view.
  2. The BA almost always operates as part of an IT lead project and under the leadership of a Project manager employed by the IT department or indeed by the external system supplier.
  3. The BA is invariably an analyst by nature, extremely oriented towards process, mathematics and systems as opposed to being business savvy, intuitive or people oriented.
  4. The Bridger is an experienced business person with a business training and an ability to empathise with business managers, to understand and champion their concerns and to help them find business solutions.
  5. The Bridger is a people person with experience and knowledge of human motivation and the fundamentals of behavioural change within an organisation and as such is able to define solutions with an eye to their impacts at an organisational level and the likelihood of their enthusiastic and successful adoption
  6. The Bridger also has training in IT and sufficient understanding of what is possible to be able to translate between the language of systems and the language of Business.
  7. So when should you use a Bridger instead of a BA?

    When you are approaching a project that you intuitively expect to meet with a level of resistance within the business, it is critical that you choose someone with a heightened awareness of change management issues. Much of the potential risk can be eliminated at the business process or requirements engineering stages as opposed to surfacing on launch day. Requirements engineering can and should be used as a tool to communicate the rationale and potential impacts of change and to build in a degree of acceptance early on.

    When you have complex business problems to solve that require more than just basic process engineering to resolve it and requires the continual engagement of senior stakeholders both as contributors and accepters.

    When you have a history of conflicts between IT and the business in terms of IT investments it can be beneficial to have an arbitrator and fixer who can understand both sides of the argument, present them effectively to the other side and gain critical agreements that allow for progress to be made.

    When you want to understand how technology can deliver competitive advantage as opposed to which is the marginally better technical architecture.