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Category Archives: Sacramento

5 Ways to Improve your Strategic Vision

Best Practices, Communications, Digital Transformation, Government, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Strategic Plan, Team Building

By Nick Sherrell, PMP, MBA, CSM

January is the time of new. We have shaken off the retrospective December and are opening our eyes to new ideas and new possibilities for our careers, our personal lives, our habits, and perhaps even some new hobbies.

This January has a couple extra layers of ‘new.’ Not only is it a new year, but a new decade. On top of that, the term “2020” is a cliché connotation for someone having perfect vision.

Let’s talk about your organization’s vision.

Many clients I work with have a Strategic Plan. It is typically that document found somewhere deep inside their document library that pops up when you are using the search feature to find some other document. It is usually from a year or two ago, and sometimes still contains a ‘Draft’ watermark.

What happened?

All too often, it follows the same path that many of our personal new year’s resolutions take. A great exercise to think about our future with a lot of creative brainstorming, dreaming, and sometimes (let’s be honest here) wishful thinking. We write it all down, even set some abstract goals, and then…life hits! Critical staff get sick (or have kids that get sick). A new decision comes from the larger organization that shakes up your organizational structure. Sometimes those old habits are just too tempting to pass up, just like that dessert case at The Cheesecake Factory!

Here’s how to set up an organizational vision that sticks.

  1. Commit to the process by building a team: It is hard enough to set your own personal vision into action. It is significantly harder to put somebody else’s imposed vision into action. Instead of doing this on your own or with a small group of executives, create a cross-functional team from all levels of your organization and have a trained facilitator guide these discussions. People brought into the design phase are given a sense of ownership and commitment to the results. This is not a strategy that is imposed on them, but rather something they have been empowered to help create. Equally as important, this commits you to the process because once you communicate the concept of building a vision to others, you create the accountability to see it through.
  2. Set realistic and concrete goals with clear accountabilities: With your team, set 3-5 core focus areas that each have a maximum of three clearly defined and achievable indicators of success. Make these goals stretch goals, hard to achieve and only attainable through dedication and teamwork. They key factor to keep in mind when selecting core areas and key indicators is that less is more, especially in the early stages of creating a strategic culture. The simpler the message, the easier it is to get everyone on board and rowing at the same cadence.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Once you have identified the core focus areas and a few key indicators, spread this message like wildfire across your organization! Wherever possible in your communications to staff, tie the message back to your strategic goals.
  4. Build and integrate frequent check-ins: This is where most strategic plans fall short and ultimately meet their demise by collecting virtual dust in a document library. Leaders are usually happy to get in a room and discuss strategy. They are usually pretty good at setting concrete goals, assigning accountability, and communicating a kick-off. The challenge is incorporating this into existing leadership meetings and decision-making. Inevitably, a distraction will happen. Prepare for it early by ingraining these goals into a habit. Which takes me to my last point…
  5. Make vision an organizational habit: Once these efforts are integrated into your regular work, reward small wins to build momentum and turn strategic thinking into an organizational habit. If you don’t reach a goal, find the positive aspects and momentum and use those as a springboard to challenge the next iteration of goals. If positives are hard to find, then focus on the learning of what did not work and bring these lessons learned into your next strategic planning session.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario at your organization? If you need help putting your Strategic Plan into place—or creating one in the first place!—we would love to help! Contact us today to learn more!

About the Author: Nick Sherrell is a Project Manager with over 10 years of healthcare experience ranging from Quality, Performance Improvement, Technology Implementation, Data Analysis, and Consulting. Nick has worked with organizations ranging from the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Blue Shield of California, and The Advisory Board Company. He currently works for KAI Partners, Inc as a Project Manager Consultant on Public contracts with the State of California, most notably with the Judicial Council of California and California Medicaid Management Information Systems. He received his MBA from UC Davis in 2015 with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Innovation. He became a Certified Scrum Master in 2018 through Scrum Alliance training offered at KAIP Academy. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, two children, and Golden Retriever Emma. Find Nick on LinkedIn here.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving from Team KAIP!

Employee Engagement, Infographic, KAI Partners, Sacramento

For Project Success, Try Something New

Agile, Enterprise Architecture, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Software Development, Technology

By Barbara Hill

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Self-help gurus have been asserting this for years—and it is no less true for software development.

In software development, we try to not repeat the pattern of projects costing too much, taking too long, and not delivering what customers really need or want. This is no doubt why we’ve seen so much advice offered on how to do things differently.

As an Enterprise Architect, I take a holistic view of an enterprise by focusing on collaboration, facilitation, coordination, and integration.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to software development.

…Early on, there were claims that formal project management methods would solve this problem by reining in costs through managing schedules and ensuring requirements were clearly stated and met.

…We’ve seen the Agile Manifesto, which, among other values, emphasizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools, as well as responding to change over following a plan.

…Then came the DevOps movement, which noted that simply focusing on software development and “throwing work over the wall” to operations was part of the problem. Instead, developers and operations staff should work together to produce better results.

…From there we’ve experienced DevSecOps, which involves security from the outset.

…And then there’s BizDevOps, in which business teams actively engage with the development and operations teams to build new products and services.

No matter which approach you use, in order to deliver a quality product or project, you need to understand the why, the how, the who, the when, the where, and the what of how your business fits and works together.

Of these six questions, the essential one is “Why?” and yet it is often the one left unanswered.

The next time you start a technology project like rebuilding or modernizing a legacy system, or creating a new one, start, as Simon Sinek says, by asking “why?”.

Why does your business or government entity exist? What is the essential value offering you make to your customers or constituents?

Asking “why” determines one of the key components of business architecture—the value stream—and it is also key to Agile and DevOps approaches that emphasize user involvement in determining what is built and how it is tested.

Once you know your value offerings and have some ideas on strategies to deliver your products and services, you can explore what capabilities you need. An analysis and assessment of your business capabilities will help highlight early on where your strengths and weaknesses are and will help you prioritize where to spend your time and resources to achieve the greatest benefits.

By architecting your business, you can think about the information architecture necessary to support the data vital to your success.

Enterprise Architecture work can be done in parallel with your DevOps teams to help ensure that all parts of your enterprise (business, information, technology, applications, security) work together, as noted Enterprise Architect Tom Graves says, “with clarity, with elegance, on purpose.”

About the Author: Barbara Hill is a Senior Enterprise Architect with KAI Partners. With over 20 years of experience working with both California state government and private sector companies, she has been instrumental in helping clients address the complexity and volatility of change, while ensuring alignment between strategic goals and operational realities. Barbara has held Enterprise Architecture certifications from Zachman International and Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture (PEAF and POET) and is currently working on certification from the Business Architecture Guild. Her Enterprise Architecture practitioner’s bag includes considerable knowledge and experience with organizational change management, quality improvement practices (such as LEAN and Six Sigma), knowledge management, data management, and data governance. Barbara’s wide-ranging work interests reflect her nomadic early days, having resided in a number of different U.S. locations, as well as Mangla, West Pakistan and London, England.

4 Questions to ask about Small Business Cybersecurity

Alpen Technology Group, Cyber Security, Information Security, Information Technology, IT Security, Managed IT Services, Ransomware, Sacramento, Systems Engineer, Technology

By David Baker, Microsoft MCSA & MCITP, CompTIA+ & Network+, CSM

According to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report via a Forbes magazine report, more than half of all cyber attack victims were small businesses.

As a Managed IT Services provider, we’ve seen many instances of our small business clients experiencing email phishing, ransomware, or other breaches in security.

Even if your small business uses an out-of-the-box security system, you still need a professional IT organization to help make sure the technology works optimally and is layered with firewalls, encryption, and more.

A Managed IT Services firm can help.

Here are some questions to ask when interviewing a Managed IT Services firm:

  1. Do you perform infiltration testing? This involves breaking into your network to expose security holes. Sounds scary, but this is necessary to find the gaps in your system and put together mitigation processes.
  2. Do you perform phishing email reaction testing and instruction? Creating a fake phishing attempt to see how staff responds can help identify what should be included in an organization-wide security training plan. According to the 2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium Size Businesses report by Ponemon/Keeper Security:

Over 80% of small businesses report that malware has evaded their antivirus software.

  1. How frequently do you survey digital security readiness? Digital security readiness focuses on preventative measures, as well as the actions to be taken when an incident does occur. Creating a culture of cyber readiness means creating a resilient organization.
  2. How rapidly would you be able to recoup basic information? It’s critical that your Managed IT Services firm can quickly retrieve your information from a backup or other reinforcement.

These are just a few questions to ask an IT services firm to make sure they provide comprehensive services to keep your business secure.

Interested in asking us these questions and learning more about how KAI Partners’ IT experts can help? Call 916-465-8065!

About David: David Baker holds certifications in Microsoft MCSA, Microsoft MCITP, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and has extensive experience in server, platform (HP/Dell). Mr. Baker has experience working with developers and supporting their development environment. In his current role, Mr. Baker monitors clients’ backups, active directory, DHCP and DNS, resolves helpdesk tier 1-3 support tickets, and has successfully completed AD migrations from server 2008 to server 2012 and 2016. Mr. Baker has successfully completed VOIP phone migrations, WAN ISP cutovers, network redesign and implementation, firewall replacements and security lockdown, AWS web server build out, AWS helpdesk call center engineering, and more. In his spare time, Mr. Baker enjoys BBQing, photography, and fitness.

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