IT Service Integration ... the mortar between the bricks

Published on LinkedIn and featured on the Pulse Technology Channel 9/4/2012

By 2020, it won't be about managing technology, it will about managing services
Within the world of IT - whether you are a provider or a consumer - by 2020 it will be about managing and integrating IT services. I always like to walk through a very simplistic example when talking about Service Integration - and something we all know and understand as a vital business service, managed by IT - Email.
Today, we take Email for granted - for most users, it just works - we get email on our computers, on our phones, on our tablets - we get notified in the office, or out on the road (and yes, even on vacation). In many cases, we are savvy users and have both our personal and professional email coming into various platforms, we filter, sort and file. In business, it has become the primary communications tool.
Here's the deal - from a user perspective, email is easy. Once setup, it works and is just there. For IT, email can be a complicated network of hardware, software, network, addresses, routing, security, filtering, storage, archiving. And if you are multi-region or multi-national, there are issues with compliance and regulations. For IT, the simple is hard.
Enter the external service provider (hosted, managed, cloud - based email services) - once again, from a user perspective, I just purchase the service, do my bit of setup, manage my reports and administration screens, and here we go, communicating with the world. Service Providers have the all the primary tools an IT group has, and more. I say that from a perspective that these service providers are for-profit businesses and need to manage quality of contracts, service, service level agreements, financial arrangements, customer services, along with the underlying technology.
To make the hard look easy, for the Service Provider (whether internal IT or external) requires integrating, not only technology, but services from multiple "sub-providers". The IT Services called Email is actually built upon dozens of services - it's like building a brick wall - each brink represents a technology, process, or service needing to be stacked in the proper place to ensure the wall has the strength required.
And we (IT professionals) move away from consuming technology (equipment and software) and begin consuming services - it is imperative to integrate those services, ensuring (1) the work together and (2) they can be managed. Service Integration is about bringing these functional IT services together and solving the business problem, not adding to it.
In the case of email, instead of placing our own servers and software in an owned data center, we now look at a third party to provide it as a service. But email only works if you have network access, now we include network access providers to the mix. And of course we all know the security risks associated with email, we add spam and filtering; Oh, and don't forget about regulatory and legal issues regarding record retention, backup and archive is critical. The list of "services" grows, including management of the end user community, and the associated access to a growing number of devices, many of which are not even owned by the company. Email has grown from a simple communication tool to an IT integration problem with dozens of services, service providers and processes - to deliver a "simple" IT service called Email.
Service Integration doesn't happen, it's planned.
Moving from owned technology, to services provided by third parties, is happening today at an ever increasing pace - in organizations of all sizes. And for some, the purchasing (or budget to purchase) has moved from the IT organization to the functional business - so who owns the integration of services? Who ultimately is responsible to ensure these services work within the larger picture of "technology" for the organization. The CFO wants his accounting systems to work, be able to produce the required analytics and reports; the CMO want so understand the marketing spend, the ROI, to report on the effectiveness of their activities; the VP Sales wants to manage the flow of information, help his sales organization close more deals, pushing the top line as high as possible; the CIO wants to manage IT, to innovate within corporate risk guidelines, pushing the envelope, but not becoming the next headline in the Wall Street Journal; the CEO walks the razor's edge of producing results without overheating the engine.
Each of these leaders has their agenda, each has requirements for technology to support it, but who is looking at how merge these agendas, integrate these services and manage them now and into the future? It won't happen by itself, it has to be planned and all these leaders will be involved, and the CIO needs to lead the charge.
Because, in less than 10 years, it will be about managing and integrating services, not technology.
About the Author:
Arnie McKinnis has built his career as the "go to" guy for new ideas and innovation. He has spent his entire career taking "Playdough" and making real products and services out of it. He loves the process of melding often disparate "trends and ideas" and creating something completely different. He enjoys the chaotic nature of technology - the ever expanding and changing landscape.
If you like this article, please check out these articles featured on the Leadership and Management Pulse channel:
**Author's Note** Any issues with any or all content used in this post, should be directed to the author.

16 must read business classics

I read an article recently about the best business books, and they were all recent publications. Nothing wrong with that, although some of the best books on the subject were written years ago.
The following books, written at least 10 years ago, the oldest written in 1926, have stood the test of time. They have been read my millions of people and are still among some of the current best selling books in the world. They range from academic to practical. They use a variety of styles. But each is worthy of a place within all our bookshelves and should be read by anyone serious about business – regardless of your age. If you've read them in the past, maybe it’s time to blow the dust off and read them again.
George Samuel Clason
Dale Carnegie
Napoleon Hill
Peter F Drucker
Og Mandino
Zig Zigler
John A Tracey
Michael E Porter
Roger Fisher, William Ury
Peter Senge
Jame P Womack, Daniel T Jones
Al Ries, Jack Trout
Richard Koch
Jay Abraham
David Allen
James C Collins
There are hundreds more, many by some of the same business and thoughts leaders above, but many, many more from authors you may not be familiar. We live in a wonderful time, we can learn from so many sources - both past and present - and many of those resources are just a click away.

So you're over 50, get over it

Full disclosure, I just had a birthday and turned 53.  So, when I say “get over it” I’m talking to myself as well.  I’ve read several articles on LinkedIn and other places about being 50+ and the workplace.  Whether it’s about getting a job, a promotion, shifting careers, going to work for a startup – doesn’t matter, there has been lots of press and lots of activity around the subject.
Now, I believe there is age discrimination, it happens on a daily basis, there is no denying the fact.  But facts are just that, facts.  They mean nothing until you decide to take those facts and do something about them.  We don’t need more armchair quarterbacks, we need people with experience, willing to lead.  So, with that said, here are some things those of us over 50 need to remember:

You were never as good as you remember
Fill in the blank with what you believe of yourself.  I could be your looks, your personality, your ability to manage, to complete a task, to manage a team, etc.  You were never as good at as you think you were.  It’s human nature to believe we were better at something in the past, especially when someone is saying “you can’t do that anymore”.  I was never as good looking as I remember, never as brilliant, never as clever as I remember.  I have a very high opinion of myself – we all should, because you don’t who will – but the “good old days” were not all good.  And the final shot over the bow, if you live in the past, you won’t look to the future.  No matter how good you were, you can be better tomorrow.

Most people will dismiss you
But guess what, they dismissed you in your 20s, 30s, 40s and now in your 50s.  So what?  The majority of people will dismiss you for a thousand reasons.  Your age is only one.  People dismiss because I’m a man, I’m white, I’m older, I’m a father, I’m a marketing guy, I work(ed) for a huge corporation, I didn’t go to the right school, I don’t live in the right area of town, I don’t wear the right clothes, I wore boots and jeans, ad nausem.  Well, those are all facts of my life.  I can’t change one of them.  If you live your life waiting for everyone else in the world to approve of you, well, it may take a while.  It’s not worth worrying about all the people that will dismiss you, it’s much more important to continue looking for those people that won’t.  They are out there – there is a perfect job, group, friend, organization that wants YOU.  Our job is to find them.

Lose the entitlement
We are not “owed” anything in life.  Just because I have 30 years of work experience doesn’t give me a pass to on the next job.  Our experience means nothing unless we can translate that into what it means to that next job, that next position, that next employer.  Own your experience and be proud of it, but don’t expect it be the thing that catapults you to the head of the line.  Entitlement is a disease, don’t allow it to infect your life.  Expect the hard road, challenges, and setbacks.  If you have learned anything from your 50+ years on this earth, it will be disappointment and heartbreak.  Don’t turn those into something dark, push through them and use them as stepping stones to create the next success in your life.  You aren’t owed anything, but you can own what you know and your experiences – they have value for someone, just keep searching for them.

“ifs and buts were candy and nuts …”

I’m a big believer in the impossible.  I have seen it over and over again in my life.  What was science fiction a couple decade ago, is science fact today.  The world we live in today, is both beautiful and terrifying – we can communicate instantly with people around the world, but we are afraid to let our kids (or possibly grandkids) play in the front yard.  Our goal as the 50+ crowd is to be willing to change, to move the ball down the field, to become better every day.  Our value is in our experiences AND how we can use it to enhance our companies and our careers.  Tell your stories and share with the world what you know – but also be willing to be the student, to learn, to grown, to climb to new heights.

Quit looking at your past with rose colored glasses and embrace TODAY with the vibrancy of your 20 year old self, the drive of your 30 year old self, the confidence of your 40 year old self and the calm of your 50 year old self. They are all you, integrate them and see what happens.

I say “Get over it” and let’s show the world what we are really made of – let’s be the next surprise in this age of surprises.  

I'm probably going to post this to LinkedIn, but you never know, I may just keep it here for those Easter Egg hunters that find it.

Great Idea | Creative Commons Photo Sharing

I just ran across a great site and thought I'd share.  It's called Photo Pin and it provides photos for use on the internet through the creative commons license.

Love it or hate it, there are people copying images, graphics and words on a daily basis.  There is nothing you can do about that - it's going to happen, so if you publish, you just have to decide to site back and let it happen.  Getting worked up about is not work the stress in your life.  You are much better off deciding to site back, let it happen, and if someone else is wildly successful with your "stuff", then find a lawyer and sue them.  It happens all the time in our crazy, cut and past world.

But, since we have Creative Commons, why one not use it?  Why not go ahead and give other talented individuals some exposure and credit for what they do.  I'm not a graphic artist or a photographer.  But, those things make a blog posting more interesting - and catch the eye.  So, I go out on the internet and grab a photo or graphic and use it.  I try to attribute, but get rushed, or forget where it come from, etc.

This site allows you to search for images via keywords.  And then use the CC to attribute ownership of the image.  Easy, and I like easy.

So check it out, it may become your new best friend with blog posting.  [example below]

photo credit: alongfortheride.♥ via photopin cc

5 keys to being a successful product marketing professional

When you say you're a Product Marketing professional, do people ask you what that is? Or possibly confuse it with Product Management? How about those people that don't understand where the lines between the traditional marketing function, sales and creative/promotions begin or end.
I've been in this game for years, have seen it from multiple angles and there are five distinct activities a Product Marketing professional much master to become successful. Now my background is primarily in IT Services (managed services, outsourcing services, consulting, advisory, etc.), so when I'm saying "product", I'm really talking about services - regardless, the five activities are the same for any product or service - high tech or low tech - it's merely the nuances of the particular "thing" being marketed.

Key Activity 1: Market Analysis

If you don't know your target, then anywhere you shot will hit the mark. The first key activity is Market Analysis - and it's more than just doing a quick internet search or making a bunch of assumptions. It is a systematic process of determining where to spend a limited budget (even big budgets have limits) to do two things: (1) expand your market, revenue and client base and (2) deepen your existing client relationships.
As a Product Marketing professional, it's your job to understand the market - past, present and future. Domain knowledge is helps, but more important is having the mindset of a treasure hunter, looking for opportunities to solve problems.
Get this one right, and your job is much easier with the other activities.

Key Activity 2: Service Strategy

Through your Market Analysis, you've discovered market areas matching your service criteria. Moving that analysis to the next phase, requires understanding how these opportunities can propel your organization towards it's goals. Translating a big number such as the total value of the market to what is available to your company, taking that available market and matching it to your company's financial goals, understanding if you can credibly enter the market or if your sales teams can be trained and motivated, are all part of the overall strategy of the service.

Key Activity 3: Service Planning

Service planning is where the "rubber meets the road". As a Product Marketing professional, you know the market, the competition, how those match to your specific company and now it is time to start planning the service for release to the market. Working hand-in-hand with Product Management, you start putting together what features, functions and capabilities are included. Working with sales, you determine the best positioning and what value will resonate with clients. Other key areas of involvement come from engineering, delivery and operations. Service Planning is that key activity where managing relationships and working with cross-functional teams will be the driving force of success or failure.

Key Activity 4: Marketing Programs

As marketing professionals, this is where most of us shine. Taking something from an idea to market, seeing it mature into a real product, is exciting. Now it's time to talk about it; using a variety of tactics, from traditional "push" advertising to engagement and social media. We match our messages to our audience, we tell the story of the service, we begin the process of gaining trust with those mostly likely to purchase. One of the areas which gets overlooked by many companies, especially in the service industry, is "testing, testing, testing". At the point of introduction, although we believe we have designed the right "plan" - it is merely an assumption until we release it. Once released, the Product Marketing professional has to be willing to follow the path of least resistance, and change course as required. I believe we only have ownership of the end goal, the path is dictated by too many forces to control, flexibility is the watchword as we manage our services.

Key Activity 5: Sales Readiness

In my background, the route to market was through a sales force - the problem is, a sales force only gets excited after the first "win" - it gets easier with each successive win. They have limited time to sell, are compensated for closed sales and want their lives to be as easy as possible. Our jobs as Product Marketing professionals eliminate as much "friction" in the transaction as possible - make it to engage clients and close the sale. To do that, we also have to ensure our clients understand the service, the benefits and how to purchase. If there are no sales, you don't have a real product - it's still just an idea.
There you have it, the five keys of to being a successful Product Marketing professional. You may love one or two, but you've got to master all of them to be successful.
In future articles I'll explore each one in more depth.

McDonalds vs the 9 Year Old | I blame the mom

First of all, I thought you had to be stock holder to speak at a shareholder's meeting and I also didn't think that minor actually "owned" anything in that same way that someone over the age of 18 can "own" something.  So my first problem with this whole mess is ...  Why was she speaking in the first place?

I'm going to assume that it was all setup, and guess who had to start the ball rolling - YEP, the mom.  I can't believe McDonalds started calling shareholders and asking if they had minor children that wanted to ask CEO Don Thompson a question.  And if the Investor Relations people at MickyDs are worth their salary, if they did, they should have vetted what was going to be asked.  So, I'm assuming the mom had it all set up.

Next, even if my child (unprompted) asked for my help, I would probably have said no.  Hell, a 9 year old can't even have a Facebook account (per their user agreement) - so why would I want to subject my small child to both the financial media, social media, other adults in the audience, and of course the back-stabbing elite of corporate America?  Once again, I blame the mom.  She was naive in the most naive way - she thought the question, if asked by 9 year old, would be met with something other the full force of a Fortune 500 Global business that earns billions of dollars and rakes in profits for the same shareholders in the audience.  Hell, these companies scheme and conspire to squash adults - what did you think would happen to your child?

Last, unless you are prepared for the worst of people, don't expect the best of people.  We live in a world where I can say anything, do anything, be anything, or do nothing - and still be "celebrity" of the moment.  Social media has given everyone the ability to shout out their opinion from their virtual soap box, while remaining anonymous.  They won't say it to your face, but give them a computer, keyboard, and internet access and get ready for the body blows.  I'm sorry both the CEO and this 9 year old have become punching bags (or heroes) for people around the world.  But once again, I blame the mom for starting this whole thing.

She needs to step up and take responsibility - the buck stops with here.

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