Jan 26, 2010

Balanced Scorecard for SMBs

My friend couldn’t come for a meeting because he was attending a fire! He is running a small firm; some implementation at a customer site didn’t go well as expected. He and his team had to work round the clock to bring this fire under control. Many small firms occasionally face these fires and customer wrath. Can Balanced Scorecard help them to reduce these fires?

The Balanced Scorecard has been embraced by thousands of organizations around the globe as an effective way to execute their strategy and for transforming their business. It is not surprising that Balanced Scorecard takes several months to implement in large organizations.

Is Balanced Scorecard appropriate for only large firms and not for SMBs? First I convinced myself before advising my friend. In some organizations, issues are complex not because the processes are complex, but because of the wrong organization structure and lack of alignment. In a small organization, organization structure and the processes are simple. Business Scorecard originated as a measurement system and I looked at the analogy: a bike has only a few dials, a car has more, a old jumbo jet may have a hundred dials in a dashboard and a modern aircraft may have a dashboard with only a few dials! (Alert will pop up only if there is an issue). So a scorecard for a small firm makes sense and should be easier to develop than for a big firm.

I remembered the quote by the reputed Management Consultant Paul Niven “Whether you have one, one thousand, or one million employees the roots of success remain the same”. After all, even a small organization will have their vision/mission, a strategy, a need to measure performance other than financial outcomes, and a need to accomplish goals with limited resources. Since Balanced Scorecard aims to bring alignment of employees with the organization strategy and goals, it is very much applicable for small organizations too.

Can Balanced Scorecard eliminate the business fires? If you have a sound strategy and a tool to execute it, why can’t? I offered to help my friend by developing a business scorecard. How did we go about and what lessons we learnt: that I will share with you in the next blog.

Read more on Business Scorecards at CXOdashboards.com.

Jan 19, 2010

Federal IT Dashboard - Changing the Way the Govt. Works

The Federal IT Dashboard created a sensation when it got 20 million hits in the first two weeks of its release. “Dashboards can bring transparency and accountability“. saya Vivek Kundra , Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Obama Administration.

In a recent post ‘Changing the way Washington works ’, Vivek says “From San Francisco to the United Kingdom, there is a global movement to share public sector data to unleash the creativity of citizens, drive transparency and ensure accountability. Data transparency can spur economic, scientific, and educational innovation by making it easier to build applications, conduct analysis, and perform research.”

Last month, I was talking to the Chief of Staff of a US County, when he visited Chennai. He met members of the C-Star Consortium and a few others and was exploring opportunities for collaboration. He mentioned that there is a public pressure being built to have dashboards for more Government services in US. People want more transparency and want to know how their tax dollars are spent in ensuring an efficient administration.

As more Governments plan to transform their administration, here lies an opportunity for the IT industry to participate in it. With each County having a budget running into billions of dollars, this could be just a tip of an iceberg. With a surge in demand from companies and government organizations for dashboards, this could even dwarf the Y2K opportunity that came by about a decade back to the IT industry.

Being a pioneer in building sophisticated business dashboards (details), CXO Dashboards would certainly leverage some of these opportunities, especially the ones that demand significant innovation in architecting dashboards. I intend to share with you the insights from these projects, as the future unfolds.

Jan 12, 2010

Modeling Excellence

One way to attain excellence fast is to model the behaviors and mindsets of people who are already successful in that field. You could model the business architecture of the market leaders too.

I have been fortunate to work with several top consultants, while leading organization initiatives in organizations such as TCS, FutureSoft and Aricent. In TCS, I worked with Ron Radice, a key architect of CMM, for a CMM Level 5 initiative. For ISO 9001, I worked closely with several consultants from KPMG. For People CMM, Srinivas T of KPMG did the assessment for us; I had interactions with Bill Curtis too. For developing the Sales System, I got inputs from Phaneesh Murthy, the legendary Sales Head of InfoSys and now CEO of iGate. For leading the Knowledge Management initiative, I got inputs from the Chief Knowledge Officers of the top IT companies, especially from Raj Datta of MindTree. For the OD initiative and the Balanced Scorecard, I got inputs from Raghu Ananthanarayanan of TAOKnoware. Rajesh Naik of QAI did the CMMI assessment for us (The best leaders are known for developing new leaders and by-the-way Rajesh Naik is in the Advisory Board of CXO Dashboards).

I have been trying to figure out what makes a great consultant, by observing these top notch consultants in the IT industry. Some of their attributes are

  • Mastery of the subject
  • Brings insights of high value
  • Coaches well; they raise the bar every time they visit.
  • Explains concepts in simple terms with analogy, metaphors and their own experiences which we can relate to easily; talking with them or attending their training sessions often generate ‘Aha!’ or ‘Wow!’ feeling.
  • They command high respect and influence industry in several ways.

Modeling Excellence is a technique followed by several successful people. It is not blind copying, yet it involves some intelligent copying. Even in Innovation, you copy some ideas/practices to your own situations and get improved/break-through results. Modeling is a powerful learning technique for achieving personal mastery.

You can even model the business architecture of the market leaders to catch up with them fast. Balanced Scorecard gives a framework for modeling your business architecture. The methodology helps you to get crystal clear clarity on your business vision, mission, strategy, objectives, goals, and lead indicators of success. It helps you focus on what is strategically important for you from the four perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes (operational efficiency), and Learning & Growth (capabilities). It gives you an approach to track your strategy and achieve business results with certainty.

Read more on Balanced Scorecard and CXO Dashboards at http://cxodashboards.com/

Jan 5, 2010

Skoda Laura for reducing weight !!

In one workshop last year, I met a business man who gave a Skoda Laura car as a gift to his school going son. We got into a casual chat during a coffee break. He told that he started his business about 10 years back. He invested all his money in the business and imported items from Japan. But the first consignment, on its way, got destroyed completely after a ship wreckage near Colombo and he couldn’t get the insurance. After a few months, he started his business again with a negative net worth. He borrowed from his friends, pledged his wife’s jewels, mortgaged his house and got about Rs.17 Lakhs. In course of time, his business grew to several Crores. He wanted to make the revenue grow to Rs.100 Crores. He owns several cars including a Mercedes Benz. His life story was inspiring and shared it with all the participants of the workshop.

One of his concern was the overweight of his son. Normal persuasions didn’t work. Then he offered a Skoda Laura car to his son, if he reduces his weight within 8 months (I don’t remember the exact target set for weight reduction). The carrot worked and his son goes to school now by a new Skoda Laura.

This reminded me an experiment I did about 4 years back when my teen-age kids had the same problem of over-weight. I took a diary and started putting the weight of every family member at the end of each month. For a few months nothing happened. Then some started asking what their ideal weight is. Towards the end of the year, I could see a trend, everybody started maintaining a weight around their ideal weight. I discontinued the practice for about 6 months and at the end of this period some had overshoot their ideal weight. Now charting weight of every family member is a ritual that happens first week of every month. And we are happy that we all are within ‘control limits’.

Measurements have a powerful effect on human beings, especially if it is used as a feedback. It brings fundamental changes in attitudes without rebuke or criticism. No wonder why metrics are an integral part of any change initiative or process improvement initiative.

Do you have a personal experience to share where measurements made an impact in your life?