IoT and Business Strategy

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Theophylus Mothowabarwa, Consultant, InnoLead Consulting

The cost of the ignorance for the 4th Industrial Revolution will befall inevitably, organisations that passively regard the evolution of technology. With rapid advancements in technology as evidenced by the Internet of Things (IoT), Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud computing and Systems integrations the world is presented with a new way of perceiving the environment hence behaviours are changing ultimately affecting how enterprises conduct business.

Imagine it’s time to knock off from work and your smartwatch, though the internet, sends a signal to your car to start up and set the air-conditioning to your preferred temperature. As you drive home, your car sends a signal to your house and the air-conditioning turns on as you are a kilometre away. While you approach the gate it receives a signal and opens automatically and the alarm is disarmed. How incredible is that? That is IoT!  IoT is defined as the interconnection of physical devices embedded with electronics, software and sensors through the internet as a platform to facilitate data collection and exchange. It does not only provide a common platform for devices to place data but a common language for the devices to communicate with each other. Data is emitted from various sensors to an IoT platform where it is integrated and remains available for further analytics and extraction of valuable information as required.

IoT defines our lifestyles, how we interact with technologies and will inevitably affect every company, job and individual. It is estimated that more than 24 billion IoT devices will be installed around the world by 2020, this translating to over $357 Billion revenue generated (Business Insider, 2018). Businesses will realise numerous benefits. First, operating efficiencies will be improved due to access to information allowing instant decision making, provision of insights that guide pricing decision and optimized logistics just to mention a few. Moreover, costly mistakes or threats to businesses will be avoided as IoT enhances the visibility of inefficiencies of business processes. Additionally, enterprises will be able to seize opportunities for profit and growth as they are able to reimagine the business and set new operational models informed by available data. Last but not least, IoT allows customer experiences to be supercharged as businesses are able to extrapolate data that can inform improvements or innovations that impact the customer experience.

IoT adoption is picking up steam and connected technology is beginning to blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. But the question remains: which elements should be included in a business strategy to ensure an organization does not capitulate into irrelevance in this era? A number of strategies can be used to keep up with the IoT revolution. Some include: Using what an organisation already knows; agreeing on a unique selling proposition combining research and development with user insights; and putting in place strategies for privacy and security.

In crafting IoT strategies business leaders need to take into cognizance what they already know. Companies can apply the knowledge they already possess and use IoT to work out answers quickly and accurately to questions like: “What do I need to find out at a given point of activity?” That question could refer to something that happens on your property, at a vendor facility or elsewhere in the supply chain. For instance, in the manufacturing industry, instead of hoping materials will arrive in time, or waiting for a stock out to indicate replenishments, a manager with a solid IoT strategy and visibility can leverage what they know from IoT insights and prepare or adjust proactively before small problems become magnified.

The decision regarding what is right for an organization should be guided by the presence of a prospective specific problem that inhibits growth. In order to come up with a relevant IoT solution to address the issue, there needs to be a thorough definition of the underlying needs of one’s organization. From the onset, fundamental questions need to be considered through problem statements. These include: why it matters to adopt IoT? and how it will benefit customers in the long run? A good case in point in the manufacturing industry is the need for more industrial sensors to improve manufacturing. There is the knowledge that a new solution is required to churn out a much broader range of data and it must also be able to communicate information back to streamline processes. The next step would be the definition of the functional requirements of the prospective solution as well as competencies needed to support the chosen IoT strategy. It is crucial that there is an understanding of any possible limitations, bringing together the things that the company does best with the needs of a solution modified to the market.

Every time a device is connected to a business network there is a risk created as devices capture everything ranging from locations, conversations to the ability to track and access company financials and customer data. This makes businesses prime targets of cybercriminals as this data is valuable. It is therefore important that when advancing and implementing IoT applications to advance processes and product requirements, clear communication regarding the need to build security testing into development be done thoroughly. While business leaders want to be quick to market and at the same time-saving costs they need not overlook the importance of security.

In improving the nature of products and services, IoT unavoidably guides their design. If organizations aspire to lead the digital disruption, organizational leaders should focus on getting ready to leverage IoT-enabled processes. Emphasis should be heavily placed on building a pool of talent capable of handling the wave of technologies that enable IoT, big data analytics, artificial intelligence etc. Additionally, cross-functional collaborations should be an integral part of the way things are done in organisations as this will ensure expertise are shared among various personnel allowing for solving of problems. Not only knowing the possibilities is crucial but also where help is needed will be vital for the success of businesses in the future.

Theophylus Mothowabarwa is a Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw

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The Explosion of Agile Certifications

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Monthusi Ramontshonyana, PM Trainer, InnoLead Consulting

Just as we can’t assert that one medicine is best for everyone, because what is required will depend on the patient’s age, medical history and ailment, we can’t state that a particular agile methodology is suitable for all projects. Every project is unique. Some projects are relatively straightforward and predictable. Others are highly complex and risky. Each requires a different approach when it comes to how the project should be managed and delivered.

This article focuses on why the explosion and proliferation of agile project management frameworks is a bad thing. The discussion points addressed by the article will be as follows: Decision paralysis; Decrease of satisfaction; The problem experienced by hiring managers and The creation of toxic project environments

Decision Paralysis

The explosion of choice produces ‘decision paralysis’, rather than liberation. We have all seen it before, ‘decision paralysis’ – the complete lack of ability to decide. Decision paralysis can happen to anyone. With so many agile project management methodologies to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all. In his book titled “the paradox of choice’ Barry Schwartz an American Psychologist states that a colleague of his got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, the rate of participation went down by two per cent. You offer 50 funds — 10 per cent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes. In another research, when “Head & Shoulders” reduced the number of shampoo choices from 26 to 10 they had an increase of 10% in total sales. He concluded by saying ‘People usually think that giving more options is a better marketing strategy. It actually isn’t. Too many choices create paralysis. People look for simple choices.’

In a nutshell, the researches above depict the real-life crisis faced by many, who are deciding on which agile certification to pursue, as the market is rapidly changing by leaps and bounds. The explosion of agile certification is making each less and less valuable since there are too many to choose from.

Decrease in Satisfaction

Even if we overcome the paralysis and make the choice, we end up less satisfied than if we had fewer options to choose from because if you have a lot of choices and you select one, it is easy to imagine that some other unchosen option would have been the better choice. This subtracts from your satisfaction. The more options you have, the easier it is to imagine that you made the wrong choice.

The problem experienced by hiring managers

The explosion of agile project management methodologies has brought another problem to hiring managers. How can they compare or rank one over another when screening candidates for employment. What criterion will they use to say one qualification is superior to another? At the current moment there is no tool that can be used to gauge and standardise agile project management methodologies ratings like, on Amazon where products are rated by customer review star ratings, the number of customer reviews a product has received which assists customers in their decision making. This leaves hiring managers to be seduced by exotic names given to these agile certifications like ‘scrum-master’; ‘professional scrum master’ etc which could be construed to mean that the candidate has ‘mastered’ the understanding and application of a particular methodology over time and are experienced enough to be deemed masters in this field. As opposed to acquiring the certificate having watched a few online videos and writing a simple exam to be bestowed with the title ‘master’.

The creation of toxic project environments

The proliferation of agile project management methodologies has created a culture where people target to do as many certifications as possible leading to certificated project team members, which does not necessarily talk to their competency and experience. This has also widened the ‘knowing-doing gap’ where project team members appear to know a lot but they do not implement what they know. This sometimes leads to a toxic project environment where there are a lot of egos in the team and a lot of negative competition among team members, team members trying to prove that their certifications are better than their colleagues’ certifications that can dampen the team’s morale which may result in sabotage, scope creeps, decreasing productivity, time and cost overruns. This phenomenon has also somehow replaced the concept of BOTHO; people skills and being truly human in the project team environment with exclusion, disrespecting morale and using bullying tactics against other team members.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that we are in a VUCA environment, VUCA is used to describe the nature of the world in which we operate: the accelerating rate of change (Volatility), the lack of predictability (Uncertainty), the interconnectedness, of cause-and-effect forces (Complexity) and the strong potential for misreads (Ambiguity). This means no one Agile Framework is the silver bullet (no one framework is suitable for all projects), the Agile approach adopted has to be suitable for the project environment and wherever possible the Agile practitioner shall improve on or tailor any given framework to the degree that will benefit the project.

Although this diversity along with frequent new offerings—muddies the waters of comparison, it would be negligent to simply ignore new offerings since they may have been created to fill real gaps/needs in the agile project management environment.

 

Monthusi Ramontshonyana is a Project Management Trainer at InnoLead Consulting’s i-Academy and can be reached on +2673909102 or academy@innolead.co.bw

Agile: An Evolution

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Monthusi Ramontshonyana, PM Trainer, InnoLead Consulting

In the previous publication titled ‘Agile: An Introduction’, the focus was on introducing and defining Agile. The focus of this piece is detailing the journey of Agile from the beginning to date.

The concept of Agility doesn’t begin with the Agile Manifesto —its roots go back much earlier. Agility can be traced back to the very beginning of human existence. One of the earlier known records of Agility is credited to Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC) who was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War. In a later section of this book, Sun Tzu talks about the need to be fluid and adaptable.

When faced with the challenge of adapting to a changing world, Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (26 October 1800 – 24 April 1891) wrote in his essay titled ‘Ueber Strategie’ translated ‘On Strategy’, “ The material and moral consequences of every major battle are so far-reaching that they usually bring about a completely altered situation, a new basis for the adoption of new measures. One cannot be at all sure that any operational plan will survive the first encounter with the main body of the enemy. Only a layman could suppose that the development of a campaign represents the strict application of a prior concept that has been worked out in every detail and followed through to the end” which is popularly shortened and quoted as ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’

The 19th century was characterised by technological innovations like new machine guns, combined with growing army sizes, which were transforming war. These evolutions dramatically increased the complexity of battles, making them almost impossible to predict a battle’s outcome and therefore plan accordingly. On this basis, Moltke the elder came to the conclusion that sharing intentions as opposed to detailed orders would empower his subordinates to take initiatives in the battlefield and better adapt to unpredictable events. Deterministic plans were no longer relevant, and adaptive strategies should be applied instead. Since then, this concept has been applied to broader contexts including project management and business strategy.

In the early 1990s, as PC computing began to proliferate in the enterprise, software development faced a crisis. Industry experts estimated that the time between a validated business need and an actual application in production was about three years. The problem was, businesses moved faster than that. Rapid Application Development (RAD) was invented around 1991, possibly the first approach in which time boxing and “iterations” were introduced. In 1993, Jeff Sutherland invented Scrum as a process at Easel Corporation;1994 saw the first release of Dynamic Software Development Method popularly known as DSDM; in March of 1996, the first Extreme Programming project was started. The late ’90s saw the emergence of many other agile software development methods including Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming.

Agile software development as we know it today was born in 2001, when 17 software thought leaders met at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, to try and find common ground. Representatives came from Extreme Programming, SCRUM, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming, and others sympathetic to the need for an alternative to documentation driven heavyweight software development processes. The outcomes of the meeting articulated a set of four critical principles to elevate the craft of software development and improve engineering and product manager motivation.

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

The proliferation of Agile Project Management methodologies did not stop with the signing of the Agile Manifesto, they continue to emerge to this date with the release of methodologies such as Lean Start Up, AgileSHIFT, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Agnostic Agile etc. The PM certification proliferation is increasing exponentially. This is obviously not good and it’s not helped by the complexity of agile approaches. The next instalment in the Agile series will discuss this in more detail.

Monthusi Ramontshonyana is a Project Management Trainer at InnoLead Consulting’s i-Academy and can be reached on +2673909102 or academy@innolead.co.bw

Agile: An Introduction

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Monthusi Ramontshoyana, PM Trainer, InnoLead Consulting

Agile is an umbrella term for a collection of frameworks and techniques that enable teams and individuals to work in a way that is typified by collaboration, prioritization, iterative and incremental delivery. There are several frameworks that are classified as Agile, these are SCRUM, DSDM, XP, SAFe, AgileSHIFT etc. At the core of Agile is the requirement to exhibit central values and behaviours of trust, flexibility, empowerment and collaboration. Agile got its roots in the software development space, specifically via the introduction of the Manifesto for Software Development in 2001 put together by a cadre of founders.

In some projects, the requirements or expectations identified in the beginning are not reliable. If we create the products based on them, the result won’t satisfy the customer. In other projects, the lag between identifying the need and delivery of a product to meet that need is far greater such that when the product is delivered the need has changed and the product is no longer the right one. In order to bridge this gap, we use adaptive methods where we only plan for a short period in the future (using timeboxes and sprints), create a working product and use the product to understand the needs and use the feedback to plan further and add more functionalities to the product.

Multiple versions of working products are created throughout the project in adaptive systems. This is called incremental delivery. It offers customers the opportunity to use the product in its current state and provide feedback throughout the delivery period. To deliver multiple versions of the working product, development processes such as Design, Build, and Test are repeated. This is called iterative delivery, which allows the team an opportunity to meet and listen to stakeholders, including customers, on a regular basis. This feedback will be used in successive iterations ensuring continual improvement and refinement of the products being created.

Agile Project Management approaches are suitable for projects where specifications, requirements and project products or outputs cannot be clearly defined before the project commences or when the customer keeps on changing his/her mind. If you try to use predictive methods with upfront scope baseline, schedule baseline etc. the project team will be bombarded with change requests which will result in scope creep, decreasing productivity, time and cost overruns.

Not every product has the capability to be developed iteratively and incrementally. The best case for Agile is software development. Agile has also been used extensively in research projects, development of products and enhancements, sustenance and renewal of products and managing the operation of organisations.

There are some misconceptions associated with Agile which suggest Agile as a panacea in project management. Agile is a means to an end, not the end itself; the whole point of adopting Agile practices is to improve project delivery. Agile cannot solve the impossible, it can help reduce wasted time: it focuses on the right things and if it’s going to fail it will fail fast. It shortens the lines of communication and encourages collaboration. Another misconception is that Agile is synonymous with Scrum. Agile is not Scrum but Scrum is Agile, just as all Toyotas are vehicles but not all vehicles are Toyotas.

Monthusi Ramontshonyana is a Project Management Trainer at InnoLead Consulting’s i-Academy and can be reached on +2673909102 or academy@innolead.co.bw