Evanta Discussion (Digital Enterprise)

This week I am leading a discussion with Evanta, a Gartner Company


Topic 1: Redefine: The Digital Enterprise
•    What are your successes in building a roadmap for a digital strategy?
•    How do you secure organization-wide support for digital initiatives?
•    How do you demonstrate ROI on digital initiatives?

Topic 2: Redefine: Innovation in a Digital Space
•    How do you balance the day-to-day while creating innovative practices?
•    What is your strategy on innovation — buy or build?
•    How do you steer your organization toward new technologies (AI, machine learning, smart devices)?
•    What talent skillsets are needed in the new digital environment?

Topic 3: Redefine: Customer Engagement in a Digital World
•    What partnerships within the business are you leveraging to build a customer experience?
•    What are you doing to understand your current and prospective customers?
•    How can you influence the business to meet the needs of the digital consumer?

The role of CIO has been shifting for a long time.  In many cases, the “Digital” concepts or technologies are treated as strategic tech as opposed to operational tech.   This logical separation is creating more costs overall.   Business leaders in many companies are making technical decisions on the promise of cloud technologies that are self contained and self sustaining.  Unfortunately, the promise of cloud doesn’t mean untethered technologies.  The responsibilities for data management, security, compliance, sanctions and EA still reside with the company.   Historically speaking, CIO’s have been prepared to deal with the many challenges companies face with tech but they can’t fight for the corporate cause in an ungoverned wild west state of digital.    The business often times finds itself in trough and when in pain goes back to IT for help.  Since IT never knew that the business was going all in on platforms and services on their own,  the CIO never had a chance to prepare and budget for core service support.  The end result is more cost, more pressure, slower time to realize delivery.  Finally, the rush to get experts and high value talent in play to recover and save projects from the downward spiral.   

I will post some reflection on this discussion.   It feels normal now to hear that CIO’s expect to be on the job for 3 years or less.  It feels normal to also hear them talking about how their roles are shifting to something for of CTO as the cost centers are drained by the credit card happy business leaders that have an itch to get what they want, when they want based on the promises of the cloud. 



Categories KM

Day 0 – The Network Came to Help


M&A Reflection

My job changed January 1st, 2016, the first day of what we called “NewCo.”  There was a lot of talk about “Legacy” company x and y.   All I really knew was that the culture and feel of the company I was working for had changed.

Regardless of what it became, it simply wasn’t what it was.  My new manager was dramatically different from the leadership I had.   The feel of the language changed and it was up to the employees of the company acquired to learn it.    I was thankful to have an opportunity to serve this new company, but I also recognized that I was an artifact of the old.   Ironically, I was new to the old company and had just started to get settled into the culture.   It wasn’t easy to learn the culture of a company with a rich history of over 130 years, but I did have pride in the company.

When I initially joined, I interviewed leaders, peers and staff across the company.  It was a learning experience similar to a consulting engagement except that I chose them and they chose me to be with them for my career.  I was honored, humbled, proud, excited, nervous, hopeful and I had so much energy that it just poured out of me.

My Global CIO was challenging corporate norms, he was constantly critiqued about his decisions and under considerable pressure from those he served.   His motto was “To deliver on commitments and exceed expectations.”   His office was behind a security door, but he wasn’t there in the office, he was out with us on the floor.   He told me when I first joined that my most important job was to work with partners and understand what they needed, why they needed it, and find ways to help, not hinder.   Beyond that he told me that he was counting on me to keep our promises.


As I started to learn more about the company and meet people along the way, my network started to grow.  The opportunity to meet people and learn about what they do for a living was fascinating.  The experience that people have over careers spanning, in some cases, 45 years, all came with stories.  Lessons, instruction, passion, love and thoughts of the future were all there.   It was a true blessing to have this opportunity to learn.   Senior leaders, like the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) opened the door for conversation and education.   The Innovation Officer taught a master class on the insurance industry with every exchange.   His understanding of the industry and his knowledge of how things worked at the company were so wide and deep that I would have to take snapshots of the whiteboard or come up to see him with a computer or notepad on every occasion.   He shared his knowledge and made certain that when I walked out of the office that I could understand the language, the story, and his intention.    Beyond that, his leadership style was familiar to me from my military history of working with DoD leadership.   Both the CIO and CInnO,  believed in excellence and backed it with their leadership.

The days were filled with learning to negotiate and build the partnership network.  Some people outwardly rejected the work I brought and others embraced it.   Where doors opened, we built relationships day by day.   One of my team members leading a strategic program and project organization would meet me every Tuesday.   She was an organizational coach and friend that would allow me to bounce ideas off and discuss pain points.   She helped me navigate the daily challenges.   The CIO presented everyone on our team an opportunity for leadership coaching with a company called “Brand Velocity” with leaders coming from various industries.  These folks could walk into a room and know everything about you in a Gladwell Blink.   They didn’t leave that first assessment to make a decision about us individually, they gave us a chance.   One of the coaches said, “I don’t coach B players, once I confirm where you are, if you are an A, we are going to get you to A+ and beyond.”  I was humbled by the investment by my company and that I had a chance to sit with and talk to global leaders in industry.   What I found was caring people coming from years of experience where there was recognition that companies have to make tough decisions, but they can make these with integrity and respect for their employees.

From my perspective, it took a chunk of the company and consultants to coach me and interact with me for me to be an effective leader.   I also made friends with brilliant people across the organization.  Some have become close personal friends that I cherish the relationships.

Down Shift

I took a turn with all the support in 2015 and got on the highway of successful growth.  Our projects and initiatives were at the bleeding edge of what is now being discussed and known as “Digital Workplace.”   My partnerships with HR, IT, Business leaders,  Innovation and others felt like a family matter.    We had challenges and difficult things to work on, but my team was empowered to do what they needed to do.  In fact,  without the good graces of my team (you know who you are Tina, Deb, Jane, Pat, Ian, Mitch, Terri).  In the beginning we had only 6 + Mitch.   With their support, we were imagining possibilities and realizing them in short order.   I would also like to state for the record that most folks were either late Gen X or Boomer.    Once they gave me a chance,  I couldn’t help but literally experience their support.   The projects and initiatives saved the company millions of dollars in 3-6 months of operation.  The savings spilled over to revenue generation and we were all at a loss in terms of words to express our excitement.

Tina wrote something recently in reflection of our experience. The Howie Experience  they are her words untouched in anyway by me.

As we accelerated and gained momentum by the forces of the crowd and our network, we were consistently writing, learning, and adjusting to meet growing demands.   While we were a small team initially, we grew our work across the many.   By the end of 2015, we realized savings and reallocation of monies into 20 million dollars.   While all this was wonderful,  our team was aware in mid-2015 that things would change in 2016.

On January 1, 2016, we were faced with integrating new team members and down shifting our work.   Our focus moved more towards technology and our team size at that point was over 5x larger.    We had to quickly regroup and adjust.   (Probably a good story for another time.)  To note, many of the people that merged with my team became a part of the family.  I will leave their names from here out of respect for their current role and position.

The Network

My personal network from my years at Booz Allen, Lockheed Martin,  Joint Forces, Exxon Mobil and friends I have met along the way had always been strong.  In my life,  I have been more than lucky to meet people that I share a bond of brotherly connection, kindness, respect, and admiration.    These people became family and I never let them go and they never let me go to far as well.  In a recent presentation by Kim Bullock and Wendy Woodson at KM World, Wendy and Kim explained to a packed room of KM’ers that our external network has been critical to our internal organizational success and that our connection to others is one of our greatest strengths.   As they presented,  I could only feel pride that after all these years, we kept so closely tied.  No geographic or work boundaries could keep us from helping each other and others.

My network and my relationships are what drive me.  My passion to help others is only exceeded by my humility on how others have helped me.    When people ask me over the years why I would help or advocate for them,  my answer is simple,  it is my way of paying it forward.   If you are reading this and you know me, I am talking about you.

My Next

On Monday, November 6th, I was informed that as a result of the M&A, a large portion of my team would be released from our current responsibilities.   While this is difficult for all involved,  it wasn’t a day of sadness.   On that day for myself and my team, my network came out and hugged me both virtually and physically.  I literally called a very good friend and recent business partner and asked him if he was heading down 200 miles to KM World.   His response was, “I am on my way, and I am coming to get you now. Be ready.”    I jumped in the car and we drove down to KM World where many of my closest friends were.   It was an outpouring of understanding and connection.    While I don’t know where the road will take me from here,  I know that without a doubt my network is full of people that I am absolutely proud and honored to have a connection to.

On my first day of my next chapter,  I wasn’t alone.   My network of family and friends were there and gave me the positive reassurance, advice, and empathy that I needed to take my next steps.   I am thankful, grateful, and honestly humbled by you and I won’t let you down.


Categories KM

Twitter: Judge, Jury & Executioner

The Social Truth

An allegation is an assertion until it can be proven but this doesn’t stop companies from reacting immediately to a social truth.

I define a social truth as something that is true because it is supported or corroborated to some extent on social media.   The result is that many voices become one message which may or may not be factual but seemingly without hard facts (at the point of entry onto social media) true.

This is a really difficult issue and highly concerning for our time.    In a recent television show,  Seth MacFarlane actually addresses the complexity of this in Orville “Majority Rules”  As a side note on this,  I think MacFarlane is paying a true homage to Star Trek (original series).

As we are living in this new norm of social media,  I believe this is very dangerous.   I use social media and I believe it is a powerful tool for communication.   The concern is that we are heading towards and even living in a “mob rules” aka Ochlocracy situation.   Whether political, social, military or corporate action taken on social media, the result recently has been immediate action.    The new normal in business is “speed” and “sentiment” but this has many costs and risks associated that follow.   In the entertainment business there are billions of dollars at stake and while this alone may not be a big deal to normal people, it sets a precedence that is concerning.


Social @ Work

Generally speaking social media at work has been helpful to companies.   There have been a few situations (Google most recently) where social has created an issue that became public.   It seems that as quickly as these things bubble up, they also go away.

They go away from our view, but what reminiscence they leave behind and the troubles or costs are troubling.    Many companies today are moving away from community management and now leaving communities to self-govern.   The result is internal mob rules which is also dangerous.   CEO’s can get ousted based on an implication.   Careers can be destroyed because someone made a statement.    What is starting to happen is people are becoming more fearful in some cases and embolden in others.   Having courage to speak your mind in a corporate setting is important but the channels in which we use are also critically important.

Whether or not for example Uber former CEO Travis Kalanick is guilty of the actions in which he is accused it should have been independent of Uber itself.   Many people today won’t take Uber just because it feels wrong.

Law and Justice

We need fairness in our society.   We need to be consistent and we need law to keep order.   In the world we live in,  it is dangerous for our families and our children because we are always recorded and there is no forgiveness of words or actions recorded.   A record automatically put on social media becomes the fact and that fact is judged with immediacy.  The public is now prosecuting people through this record and the higher the counts of which people speak of an action or deed, the faster things happen.   It isn’t that way in every single case, but it becoming that way more often.    It is driving us apart as a nation and it is impacting us on a global scale.   It is now becoming harder and harder to know what is true and what is not.

There is a difference between free speech and yelling about danger in a movie theater.  What we may be doing today on social media is the equivalent of yelling “fire” on a scale never before seen.

Community Management

I think we can have our say as a society and have safety at the same time.   Community managers have historically and successfully been involved with cultivating and managing social communities.   They look for indicators and help facilitate and control conversation.   They exist today on Wikipedia and Quora and many other places but they really don’t have a strong presence in other areas.   That’s not to say there aren’t controls in place but there aren’t community managers.    We need to find ways to inject people into situations where things are trending high to make decisions on when to buffer conversations.   This doesn’t mean to control or stifle conversation, it simply means to take a look at what and where people are yelling “fire” and make a determination as to potentially pause the discussion for the greater good.   This is dangerous territory and a tough subject but I believe if we keep going down this road as-is,  there will be proverbial hell to pay.

What are your thoughts? if-all-you-had-was-a-hammer



Categories KM