Temptations of a Strategist (and 3 Ways to Overcome Them)

Joseph Logan

“Strategist” is a sexy label. It means that you are a decision maker—a big-picture thinker. You are someone who shapes the future.

Of course, being called a strategist is different than being a strategist. Earning the label requires patience, tenacity, and focus. It demands an executive who is patient yet relentless. It also requires the integrity to resist temptation.

Read more of this post

Economies of Resource Over Allocation

Co-written by Dan Ahern

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

“I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.”
–Ronald Reagan

What the former President expressed in jest brings attention to a long-standing issue. We are decades past Regan’s time and you still cannot listen to news for long without hearing a story about the national deficit, the growing deficit, or reducing the deficit. You do not need an economics degree to understand that a deficit means that spending is in excess of what one has. In other words, the government is committing to do and spend more than it has the capacity to do. And no matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on, all can agree that a large deficit is a bad thing. Read more of this post

Strategy or Execution…Which Matters Most?

Slalom Consultant Andrew Houston

Slalom Consultant Andrew Houston is an experienced Finance and Strategy consultant with more than 15 years of experience working with leaders across a broad variety of industries to define and implement solutions to key business issues.

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but an average strategy well executed will beat a great strategy poorly executed—every time. So it goes without saying that execution is key to realizing the value in your strategy, but what does this say about setting your strategy? Does this mean that strategy is not as important as execution?

The danger in the above logic is that organizations can rush or diminish the importance of setting the strategy in order to focus on the execution. The end result risks becoming a terrible strategy well executed.

There are many different approaches to setting strategy but they typically boil down to three key steps, namely:

  1. Understanding the current state–focusing on where you, your competitors, and the market are today.
  2. Identifying the future state–sometimes called the goal or vision. Focused on identifying and quantifying what success looks like, or what the organization is seeking to achieve.
  3. Selecting the strategy–the path to get the organization from its current state to its goal.

None of the above is necessarily complicated, however at the same time it is not always easy. There is a lot of work required to do the due diligence to understand the current state. Identifying the future state requires the organization to build off work done in the current state phase to identify and select the best opportunity for the organization.

With the future state set there is often an urgency to get to execution and this is where the organization risk selecting a “terrible” strategy. Strategy setting requires evaluating across multiple options, permutations, and paths to determine the optimal way to reach the goal. This is a step I often see organizations skip or rush and in not taking the time to think through the different options, the strategy is sub optimal…or “terrible”.

If you have made it this far you have hopefully realize that I am a strong believer in spending the time to establish your strategy, then execute (and execute well). So which matters most? Strategy or execution? They both do.

Delivery 2.0

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

“Efficiency tends to deal with Things. Effectiveness tends to deal with People. We manage things, we lead people.”
–Source Unknown

As we lead our clients into 2012, we need to provide answers as to what waits in store for delivery organizations. Will organizations continued to underperform (per the trends of the Standish Group’s Chaos Report)? Or will organizations begin to realize the incremental changes that can be made that will help them improve? Delivery Effectiveness is a point of view on companies’ ability to raise the bar all across the organization for delivery improvement. If we consider Delivery 1.0 as the application of general project management practices within IT, Delivery 2.0 is a broader refocus to support the rest of the enterprise. Read more of this post

The Crude Use of Clever Tools

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The Stone Age was marked by man’s clever use of crude tools; the information age, to date, has been marked by man’s crude use of clever tools.”
–Source Unknown

As part of Slalom’s operational delivery solution, I hold that project selection and the management of the project portfolio are paramount functions for delivering success. However, organizations are continually bemused by the question, “How does one choose the right projects?” The answer is: it is very difficult. And the larger the organization, the more difficult the decisions, trade-offs, and rationalizations. For with a larger organization, there are a greater number of managers, teams, departments, and business units competing for the same scarce resources.

With many inputs and potential outcomes, business initiatives may be under consideration from all areas of the company (i.e., marketing, research & development, production, and support organizations). Is it unfair to compare such proverbial apples and oranges? Can one equate the product R&D project with the project to renew and upgrade technical infrastructure? Certainly there must be some way to compare these. How else will management be able to choose? All efforts cannot be graded as #1’s. Read more of this post

Building a Strategy That Sticks

Daniel Maycock is one of Slalom’s acknowledged thought leaders in the realm of new and emerging technology.

What I’ve found more often then not, is that mobile strategy is more about how companies adopt to change and adapt their existing business to something disruptive, then it is about devices or the software running on them. Read more of this post

What Makes Good Business Intelligence Software?

Marek Koenig specializes in Business Intelligence, SharePoint and Custom Development.

Marek Koenig

With the amount of data within an organization growing by the minute, it can be challenging to make sense of it all. A data analyst may have a good understanding of what is really going on, but would a C-level employee be able to do the same? It all depends on the set of business intelligence (BI) tools being used.

The goal of a BI tool should be to quickly provide meaningful insights into your data. This can be done by extracting, manipulating, enriching, and extrapolating on various data points. A good piece of software will meet certain expectations (some of which we’ll explore below). Read more of this post

Considerations for a More Effective User Acceptance Testing

Slalom Consultant Pranav Jhumkhawala

Pranav Jhumkhawala is a technical manager and a solutions architect with Slalom Consulting, who has wide ranging experience in the areas of application architecture, development and management, implementing solutions for large and complex systems environments that span across multiple business areas, technology landscapes, and architectural disciplines.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is a significant milestone in software development lifecycle. It is during UAT that the users get to see the system “in action”, in many cases for the first time. Their acceptance and sign off are required to proceed with the production deployment. How formal and extensive is the UAT activity depends on the size of the project, user audience as well as the software development approach adopted by the delivery organization.

Acceptance Criteria
A key first step in the planning of UAT is to understand and establish a well-defined acceptance criteria. There is a general tendency amongst teams to focus on the “testing” and not on the “acceptance” part of UAT. This typically leads to too much attention being given to defects in the system, rather than the functionality and user satisfaction with the system. The goal of UAT is to showcase the functionality that the system offers in order to get an acceptance to move ahead with implementation, rather than asking the users to test the system for us. Therefore, emphasize the user acceptance as the primary objective of this activity and plan the UAT scripts accordingly. Read more of this post

Better Vendor Management

Co-written with Beverly Lieblang

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“Let’s work together in partnership to ensure that we can have the best way forward.”
–John Pistole, former Deputy Director of the FBI

In today’s dynamic and highly leveraged economy, companies continue to increase their reliance on outsourcing as a means to remain competitive. Ideally, outsourcing fills internal resource gaps and missing skill sets with the intent of saving money. In order to take advantage of vendors’ specialized capabilities, many corporations engage in a multi-vendor sourcing approach. It is also critical that corporations institute an appropriate level of governance and vendor management. Read more of this post

Thoughts on Public Speaking

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin

Slalom Consultant Derek Martin is an accomplished Microsoft systems developer and integrator, experienced in developing and deploying SharePoint and CRM solutions, integrating line of business applications, and leveraging existing infrastructure investments.

Every encounter in life can be measured easily by the application of one or more quotes from my favorite show, The West Wing. There’s an episode in Season 2 (Episode 34 in case you were wondering) called The Drop In where Sam is working very hard on an upcoming speech the President will give. While working with his colleagues before the speech, he pontificates the following:

“The difference between a good speech and a great speech is the energy with which the audience comes to their feet at the end. Is it polite? Is it a chore? Are they standing up because their boss is standing up? No, we want it to come from their socks.”

I’ve been fortunate to have given literally thousands of speeches. Starting all the way back to my 8th grade year, I was involved in organizations where I was constantly presenting, doing speaking engagements, interviews, dialogues, etc. It was an odd childhood I admit, but the skills I learned while young and in the spotlight have served me well into my adulthood as a consultant. Several colleagues have asked me where I got this talent. It is a cool talent to be sure, not at all unlike juggling (another West Wing quotable reference), but there are many cooler talents that other folks have and I lack. But one thing is for certain–one thing that I have learned in all of those presentations and speeches–if you have the audience and they are captive, you have to be able to present yourself in a way that holds their attention for as long as you’ve been asked to speak. Whatever it takes, whatever the style, your sole job in life while on stage or in front of a crowd is to capture their attention. How does one do that? Let’s start by examining what you don’t do: Read more of this post

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