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Category Archives: IT Modernization

How our Team Performed Remote Design Thinking

Continuous Improvement, Decision-Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Team Building, Technology

By Terry Daffin, PMP and Denise Larcade, Prosci

KAI Partners has recently been using design thinking to help create new products and improve existing processes to support the work we do for our clients. Even before the stay at home orders, one of our design thinking teams held a design sprint that was done almost completely remotely—and resulted in a product ready for implementation!

Here are some of our experiences and what we learned through our remote design thinking experience.

Remote Design Thinking Challenges

As with using any kind of new approach or methodology, there were some challenges and we certainly went through the 5 stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.

Working remotely added another level of complexity with the addition of anonymity or facelessness. With a lot of strong personalities on our team, it was easy for some folks to disengage from the group.

So, how did we get past this?

To get through the storming phase, we had to work together to develop trust and respect.

True trust and respect empowered the team and were ultimately what led us to the norming and performing stages.

Because we met virtually (over Zoom) once a week, we had to become more vocal than usual. It was not uncommon for members of the group to speak up in order to keep others on task so that we did not go down a path not in scope or bring up topics that should be added to the backlog for future discussion.

Remote Design Thinking Successes

Despite our initial challenges, we did make it to the norming and performing stages! How?

We didn’t wait for people to join in order to begin—we jumped right in and started working.

What made this easier were our tools—we used MS Teams to share files, document meeting notes, have team conversations, and even to build our prototype. There was rarely an occasion where people felt out of the loop, because all the notes, resources, and information were right there in Teams.

Working remotely also allowed us to reach more people, cross more boundaries, and include more perspectives, as opposed to in-person coordination.

People are busy (and that’s a different problem for another blog post!) but working remotely gave more people the opportunity to participate and contribute.

Self-Organizing Team Tips

Part of our remote design thinking method was to truly self-organize within our team. Here’s what worked for us:

Set expectations and make team agreements from the start.

Because there was not one person designated as our “Lead,” we created a list in Teams with the Facilitator and Scribe for each meeting. If someone was unable to Facilitate or Scribe on their appointed day, it was their responsibility to find coverage.

This helped promote ownership—we were all one team of equals and therefore equally responsible for the team’s success.

Of course, since we are a firm that provides organizational change management (OCM) services, OCM was always on our mind. Design thinking was new for some folks and people are often wary of change. Assigning the rotating roles was a good way to share the workload and learn a skill—we were all in this together!

Another tip is simply to have patience. We were learning a new way of working and change is hard. Trust and respect had to be established and re-established and that process took patience!

At the end of the day (or sprint), it was satisfying to see how we created a product through sheer teamwork—even though remote design thinking was a challenge at times, the final product was worth it!

Have you done any kind of remote design thinking work on your team?! Let us know your experience in the comments!

About Terry: Terry Daffin is an Executive Consultant within KAI Partners. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years and has over 25 years of project management experience. As a public sector consultant in the health care industry, Mr. Daffin assisted in the development and implementation of Project Management Offices that include project management, service management, lean agile and traditional product development lifecycles, and governance processes. He has been an innovation advocate and evangelist for 15 years and has implemented innovative processes for projects that he has been engaged in since 2001. Mr. Daffin currently works as the Project Manager of the KAIP Academy, KAI Partners’ training division and is the Community Manager at KAI Partners’ coworking space, The WorkShop Sacramento.

About Denise: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is Prosci certified. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise lives in a 55-acre walnut orchard and enjoys the early morning hours when wildlife is stirring and the many birds are chirping. Since working from home as of recent, Denise has found she enjoys that extra cup of AM coffee without the commute…just her and nature.

Technically Speaking: From Corporate Office to Working from Home

Best Practices, Cloud Computing, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, IT Modernization, IT Security, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Technology, Training

By Elizabeth Long and Denise Larcade

KAI Partners works with many clients whose typical work environment is in a physical office space. So, as you can imagine, this new normal of working from home has been a tough transition for many people.

Over the years, KAI Partners has helped many of our clients bridge the gap to work cohesively across regional offices around the state. For us, helping entire departments transition from working together in an office space to working separately from home is a challenge we are well-equipped to handle!

Here are some things we have learned over the past few weeks. Try to keep these in mind as our new normal continues to change and as your team continues to make the transition into working from home.

From a technical perspective, many people are not prepared for the transition to remote working.

At a minimum, when working remotely, you need to have a computer or a laptop. While this seems like a no-brainer, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of people do not have a company-issued laptop that they can bring home. This means that oftentimes people are using their own personal laptop, computer, iPad, or tablet. All of this brings a layer of challenges around cloud computing access and making sure the technology functions so people can do their jobs.

How KAI Partners can help.

To help support this transition, we have been educating clients on not only the tools they need to work effectively from home—laptop, webcam, microphone, speaker—but also how to use the tools and how to securely gain the appropriate access they need to online work programs.

Every client uses different cloud computing and file sharing systems, so it has been important for us to unpack our knowledge of all these different systems and pass that knowledge into our clients!

In-person meetings are different than online meetings.

Navigating online meetings—everything from getting signed in and getting the camera working, to using chat functions and knowing how and when to mute—is a learning curve for folks who are used to holding in-person meetings exclusively.

How KAI Partners can help.

We have really been using our change management and training best practices during this time! Because everyone’s level of IT maturity differs, it is key to know your audience and tailor the training to their particular work environment.

Since KAI Partners supports many different clients—as well as our own internal operations—we have experience using a wide variety of virtual tools and have a high level of technical skills necessary to help educate our clients use the tools that are supported by their organization.

With many people these days focused on the challenges that come with transitioning their home space into an office space, we cannot forget that the technical changes are a huge learning curve for many and extra support should be given to ensure success.

If you are one of the many people who are working remotely, let us know the pain points as well as some successes—how has it been transitioning your team to work from home?

About the Authors

Elizabeth Long is a professional Organization Development Consultant and Curriculum Developer/Trainer. She received her Certification in Organizational Change Management from Prosci and is certified in e-learning development from Langevine Learning Center. Elizabeth has worked in many industries: High tech, healthcare, and state and local government. Currently, Elizabeth works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc. as a contractor working in a variety of California State Departments. Elizabeth’s favorite part of currently working from home is her increased productivity! She spends less time commuting and walking to meetings and client site locations—all that time is now focused on project deliverables and activities…She just has to remember to take breaks!

Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She is a Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and is Prosci certified. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise lives in a 55-acre walnut orchard and enjoys the early morning hours when wildlife is stirring and the many birds are chirping. Since working from home as of recent, Denise has found she enjoys that extra cup of AM coffee without the commute…just her and nature.

7 Tips for Leading Successfully through Change

ADKAR, Communications, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Organization Development (OD), Organizational Change Management (OCM), Process Improvement, Project Management, Prosci, Technology, Training, User Adoption

By Elizabeth Long, Prosci, CSM

Most people don’t resist change just to resist change. Most people resist change because of fear.

Fear of:

  • No longer being the knowledge holder or subject matter expert (SME)
  • Not being capable of performing the new work
  • Not being comfortable with or slow to learn the new job/technology
  • Having to do things differently—maybe they have been performing the same function the same way for a long period of time and they want to keep the status quo
  • Losing their job—in some cases, people choose to leave on their own; the truth is, sometimes jobs may need to be altered to keep up with changing technology

If your organization is going through a period of change—whether an update in technology or a corporate reorganization—it’s important to know how to address the fears and help users transition smoothly.

Here are a few actions you can take to make this happen:

  1. Get users involved by leveraging them to help document as-is business processes and create to-be business processes.
  2. Provide opportunities for people to have hands-on practice with the new system. If testing a new software system, consider which users are appropriate to participate in User Acceptance Testing.
  3. Address concerns about job loss—are they really losing their job or are they just going to perform a new job function?
  4. Empower SMEs to provide input on communications to the larger group.
  5. Leverage SMEs to help develop and review training material and assist with/support training.
  6. Provide honest and direct communication regarding job impacts and information about the project.

If you need help in managing a large change in your organization, we can help! Our change management experts can help you determine who your users and SMEs are, conduct a stakeholder analysis, determine the best approach for engagement, and more!

About the Author: Elizabeth Long is a professional Organization Development Consultant and Curriculum Developer/Trainer. She received her Certification in Organizational Change Management from Prosci and is certified in e-learning development from Langevine Learning Center. Elizabeth has worked in many industries: High tech, healthcare, and state and local government. Currently, Elizabeth works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc. as a contractor working in a variety of California State Departments. Elizabeth has lived in Sacramento for the past 20 years and appreciates the history of Sacramento as well as its convenience to many well-known destinations like San Francisco, Tahoe, and Reno.

Software Development: The Ever-Changing World of Waterfalls, Sticky Notes, and Sharpies

Agile, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Scrum, Software Development, Technology, Waterfall

By Sid Richardson, PMP

Raise your hand if you’ve run a software project using the Agile Methodology and have run a software project using the more traditional waterfall project management methodology? I’m sure there are many of you!

Having worked in project management for nearly 30 years, I have run software projects using a variety of different methodologies and I can certainly appreciate the benefits that they all bring to the table.

One true constant in life—and in software development—is change, and I’ve seen my fair share. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

The ‘80s were RAD

In the mid-1980s, a software development methodology called Rapid Application Development (RAD) began to take off.

James Martin developed the RAD approach at IBM and formalized it in 1991 by publishing a book called Rapid Application Development. The RAD approach was based on working closely with the customer and prototyping solutions quickly to deliver a final product. The intention was that there would be less effort placed on the planning aspects and more on the customer collaboration aspects.

While RAD was not necessarily a true project methodology for software development, I believe it led to an easier buy-in to the Agile project methodology many of us use now.

Meeting the Requirements

When I was working in Europe in the early-to-mid 1990s, there was a heavy emphasis on formal approaches to project management and software projects. This may sound strange—or it may provide flash-backs for some of you!—but I remember a time when absolutely no analysis or design work was allowed to begin until the user requirements (typically volumes of paper in large bound files) were received in hardcopy form with sign-off by senior company executives.

Can you imagine working in that type of environment?

The traditional waterfall approach to software development projects was rather rigid, but I can understand the reasoning—the leadership wanted to have a high level of confidence in what would be delivered.

Fragile Agile

Fast forward to almost 20 years ago and many organizations encountered internal pushback and some challenges with the adoption of Agile as a software development methodology. The common joke thrown around in the middle of an Agile rollout was that it was “Fragile.”

Since the requirements in an Agile methodology are more dynamic, things eventually settled down and as someone said to me recently, “I guess we’ve come into an age of sticky notes and Sharpies.”

Design on My Mind

At KAI Partners, we have recently started using Design Thinking. Design Thinking provides a creative, solution-based approach to solving problems and is also sometimes known as human-centered design or user-centered design. It’s on the side of creative problem solving, which—being a creative type of guy—is why I gravitate toward it.

Design Thinking encourages organizations to focus on the people or the customer—and it’s the people-centered focus that leads to better products, services, and processes.

While it’s not a software development methodology, Design Thinking can be used as a problem-solving tool to accompany almost any software development methodology you choose to use.

Is there a Perfect Approach?

So, with all these different methodologies, is one better than another? Well, it depends on the project at hand!

One of the common drawbacks to the RAD approach of the 1980s was the lack of scalability. RAD typically focused on small to medium-sized projects and teams. Then Agile came along in the early 2000s and, as a lean philosophy, could certainly be applied at an enterprise level.

What I think works best is a blended methodology that combines the best features of a variety of different approaches.

If the last 30 years in project management and software development have taught me anything, it’s that there are components and approaches of many different methodologies that—when combined—can make a robust and flexible way to deliver high-quality, timely products to the customer.

And, considering that a new methodology will likely make its way to the surface soon, we can’t get too comfortable. Luckily, as project managers and agents of change, we are used to the continual cycle of change and it will be up to us learn the new methodology, prepare our teams, and adapt our work accordingly.

Need support on your next project? KAI Partners can help your organization implement the software development methodology that works best for you and your needs!

About the Author: Mr. Richardson’s passion is Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, Master Data Management and Data Architectures. He has helped Fortune 500 companies in the US, Europe, Canada, and Australia lead large-scale corporate system and data initiatives and teams to success. His experience spans 30 years in the Information Technology space, specifically with experience in data warehousing, business intelligence, information management, data migrations, converged infrastructures and recently Big Data. Mr. Richardson’s industry experience includes: Finance and Banking, government, utilities, insurance, retail, manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare, large-scale engineering and transportation sectors.

What you missed at the California State of Technology Industry Forum

Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology

By Lucie-Anne Radimsky, CSPO

Last week, I attended the State of Technology – California Industry Forum, hosted by Techwire.

The event brought together technology and professional service delivery vendors who provide IT and support services to State agencies. According to event speaker Joe Morris, Vice President of Research at eRepublic, public sector technology spending in California looks like this:

  • $7 billion State surplus
  • $8 billion spent annually on IT
  • $900 million in State contracts were awarded to 1,300 vendors through 7,000 purchase orders

Some of the event speakers included:

  • Amy Tong, California Department of Technology (CDT) Director and Chief Information Officer
  • Scott Howland, California Highway Patrol (CHP) Chief Information Officer & Chief, Information Management Division
  • Michael Wilkening, Governor’s Office Special Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services
  • Richard Rogers, CDT Chief Technology Officer and Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer
  • Ben Word, CDT Chief Enterprise Architect, Government Operations
  • Angela Shell, Deputy Director, Procurement Division, Department of General Services and Chief Procurement Officer

Topics discussed during the 4-hour event included the growing importance of AI, including the launch of a strategic initiative dedicated to this increasingly important technology. This strategic initiative will include Data Management; the development of an Information Security roadmap; a cloud first and cloud smart approach to be deployed on an as-needed basis, rather than a blanket solution; promoting a user-centric mentality when building government services; and using a modular and more agile approach to streamlining and improving project results.

I was particularly interested in the ‘Innovation in California’ panel which included Governor’s Office Advisor Michael Wilkening and CHP CIO Scott Howland. Chief Howland compared hamburgers to IT projects, likening the promise of innovative technology solutions to that of an advertisement for a juicy hamburger. The reality of what you receive often looks nothing like the photo—but, while it might be an imperfect version, it’s still a hamburger.

Chief Howland’s point was that the imperfect version was good enough to start with offered and a place from which to improve. This is the true path of innovation—to take risks, fail fast, and move on. He talked about the ‘mobile office’ patrol cars of the CHP workforce that will allow them to respond more quickly and more effectively, resulting in improved safety to citizens and communities.

Michael Wilkening from the Governor’s Office led his participation in the panel by announcing that there will be some key hires in the next few months. New hires include the naming of the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) Director, as well as a Chief Data Officer—a true sign of the times!—who will likely lead the effort in promoting and implementing an overarching data use agreement that is currently being developed. (This data use agreement is inspired by an existing framework used within the Department of Health and Human Services).

Other ODI updates and projects in the pipeline include:

  • Earmarking $10 million for innovation. The expectation is that this will help spark the growth of several smaller projects.
  • Re-imagining the state’s website to improve and provide a more current experience in terms of how citizens interact with government. (See alpha.ca.gov to follow the progress of this undertaking.) Mr. Wilkening noted that a key to innovation is the importance of building greater trust in government among California’s citizens—increased trust means greater access to valuable data that will help define and inspire new services.

Department of General Services (DGS) staff closed out the conference with a panel discussion around procurement and the ways in which DGS is working to improve the process and experience. DGS discussed the arrival of RFI2, a unique program which incorporates a proof of concept portion. The importance of accountability on both parties (vendor and agency) was another point driven home by Amy Tong, who stood in for Marlon Paulo, who was unable to attend. DGS also invited vendors to contact the agency with questions, concerns, and ideas on how to improve the procurement process.

Overall, this was a great event that allowed many of us public sector vendors to reconnect with our partners and colleagues within the community. It provided an arena for us to access leaders within the State who are instrumental in defining the upcoming IT projects that many of us vendors will help support.

About the Author: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe, on behalf of start-ups and non-profits. She has represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, press, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne has both American and E.U. citizenship. She is fluent in English and French. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She currently resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

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