Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: 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.

OCM Success Story [VIDEO]

ADKAR, Corporate Training, Digital Transformation, Government, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Learning, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Prosci, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Train the Trainer, Training

One of our OCM consultants shares one of her most successful change management tactics! We empower your organization to carry on the change after our work is done! Learn more here!

When is Project Management not Project Management?

Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Design Sprints, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Training, UX / UI

By Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist & Scrum Master, CSM

Luckily, this isn’t a trick question. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s more of an art than a science.”? This holds true for many different endeavors in life and business, including Project Management.

The Way we Approach Problems is Changing

As a Project Management Professional (PMP)® for over 12 years, here is what I’ve learned—think of it as two different buckets of knowledge.

Let’s call Bucket A: “The Science.” This may include:

  1. Project Management Certifications (PMP, CSM, SSM)
  2. Project Management Frameworks (PMI, SAFe, Disciplined Agile, FLEX)
  3. Project Management Process and Artifacts (Project Charters, Agile Release Trains, Six Sigma Flow Chart)

Bucket B: “The Art” includes things like:

  1. Building psychological safety
  2. Driving innovation
  3. Empowering self-organizing teams to deliver valuable solutions

While the science is absolutely needed, without the art, we have to ask: Would we still consider it a successful endeavor?

I have witnessed a shift from only defining success through costs, dates, and deliverables to instead broadening the definition to include delighting our customers, building a high-performing team culture, and criteria that includes more items from Bucket B.

Design Sprints to the Rescue

Intrigued by this shift and how it relates to my work as consultant, I recently signed up for a Masterclass by Jake Knapp called The Design Sprint.

Design Sprints, born out of Google Ventures, is now practiced across the globe as a proven method for problem-solving and launching innovative solutions.

A Design Sprint traditionally runs four to five full consecutive days with a set number of team members who are pulled together to focus on a core problem. The structure follows the path of Design Thinking, which includes: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

At its core, Design Thinking is user-centered and focuses on rapid learning based on human interactions driven through a tailored process that drives to solutions.

5 Design Sprint Tips

  1. Show, don’t tell. Facilitators encourage visuals like sketches, prototypes, and dot-voting over traditional meetings where participants typically just talk about ideas. Having a dialogue using an interactive medium helps to eliminate assumptions when people only describe what they mean.
  2. Put people first. People oftentimes drive your greatest outcomes or are your biggest barriers. Projects are not inanimate things to manage.
  3. Frame and re-frame. How you frame a problem allows you to find the right challenge to tackle. “How might we…?” problem statements allow participants to try many different lenses to a particular challenge.
  4. Embrace ambiguity. Sometimes situations won’t be clear and your cheese will be moved—when that happens, stay the course and push through with your team.
  5. Context matters. Whether you are in a new organization or another country, every ecosystem has their own culture, language, and norms to which you should recalibrate.

While I did earn a certification to add to my collection (think Bucket A: The Science), what I take with me is that the “art” of running a successful Design Sprint is the same “art” as running a successful project.

It takes a different part of the skills in your toolbox to master both—the best consultants I know have the best toolbox to pull from.

Put Your Skills into Action

A couple of ideas from the Masterclass that I have been able to use immediately in my current higher education consulting work are:

  1. Re-framing the problem
  2. Understanding context

For example, when developing an application, it is easy to believe the end goal is simply ‘completed functionality.’

By reframing the problem with the user in mind, i.e., “How might we ensure a student is able to combine and transfer their units online between campuses?”, we ensure that what is developed meets the needs of a solution beyond working code.

This could mean ensuring the underlying data needs to be revisited or that a mobile-first user experience better serves the population using the application.

By understanding context, we may discover we need to know more about the upstream or downstream applications that units are coming from or feed into so that the student has a tool that can meet their needs.

By reframing the problem and understanding context, we refocus using an empathetic lens through a technology solution.

These are just a few ways I’ve started using Design Sprint concepts in my work—do you use the Design Sprints or Design Thinking concepts? Let us know some success stories or problem areas—maybe we can help!

About the Author: Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist, SAFe Scrum Master, CSM started her career in gaming at Sony PlayStation and has worked in several fields including Solar, Higher Education, and Finance in Silicon Valley. Currently she is an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, working with a public sector higher education client. While not collecting letters behind her name as part of her love of life-long learning, she enjoys watching boxing and following the Marvel Universe of films.

3 Ways Organizations can Achieve their Goals

ADKAR, Community Service, Employee Engagement, Event Recap, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Prosci, Sacramento, Team Building

By Debbie Blagsvedt, CSM, LSSGB

A few weeks ago, I attended a networking event for Junior Achievement of Sacramento sponsored by the Sacramento Business Journal.

Dream Big & Reach Your Potential

Junior Achievement of Sacramento offers volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs to foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills. Junior Achievement uses experiential learning to inspire students in our community to dream big and reach their potential.

Walking Down Memory Lane

Walking through the doors, memories of my involvement with Junior Achievement in high school came flooding back. Listening to business leaders at the ripe old age of 16, I recall feeling a sense of excitement and curiosity about what it would mean to “reach my potential.”

The concepts introduced over 40 years ago still resonate with me today in my role as an OCM consultant as I work with organizations and encourage them to, “dream big and reach their potential.”

Major organizational change is about transformation—it’s a process of profound and radical change that takes an organization in a new direction and drives them to reach their potential.

So, what can organizations do to bring the lofty idea of dreams and potential into reality? Consider adopting these concepts when embarking on your next change initiative:

Change Initiative Tips

1. Collaborate on the vision. A vision is an essential part of any change initiative—and something that’s recommended by all the change management methodologies.

Without a vision, organizational change efforts can lead people in circles or question the organization’s sanity.

A well-developed vision helps boost urgency and maintains focus on the future.

Effective visions start with senior leadership imagining the future—but it doesn’t stop there.

Creating a vision requires collaboration with key stakeholders at all levels to ensure buy-in and shared ownership.

2. Embrace change as an opportunity: While working on a reorganization project, I asked workgroup members what excited them about the project. One member responded “opportunity,” which was followed by several heads nodding in agreement.

Change provides the opportunity to think differently, repair what’s not working, and build on elements that contribute to an organization’s success.

To go back to Junior Achievement principles, part of change being an opportunity is the commitment to “dream big.” Allow project teams to realize this opportunity through their engagement and involvement.

3. Believe that challenges can be overcome: Have a little faith, my friends! If we can land a man on the moon or develop a hand-held device that provides answers to the most obscure questions in seconds, then organizations can overcome formidable challenges.

Leaders must put their trust in staff to lead the charge.

In order to develop solutions to challenges, an effective approach is to have those closest to the challenge together work together with people who are not.

Engaging the right people at the right time with the right skills and attitude can bring an end to what was once a daunting barrier.

Final Thoughts

It was an honor to be back at my former Junior Achievement stomping grounds—and to be reminded that no matter our age, job, or current project, we can always use support to help us achieve our big dreams.

Does your organization need change management support? Contact us at info@kaipartners.com to learn more about how we can help your organization meet its goals!

About the Author: Debbie Blagsvedt is an Organizational Change Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in change management, performance management, process improvement, training, and facilitation. She has a worked in both the private, public, and non-profit sectors in industries that include health, legal, financial, social services, high tech, and transportation. She currently works as an Organizational Change Consultant with KAI Partners on assignment with a public sector agency. Debbie is passionate about collaboration among teams which she believes leads to high employee satisfaction and is equally fascinated with the rapid-fire speed of change and what it means for organizations today. Debbie grew up in the bay area but now considers Sacramento her home. She has many interests from home projects to wine tasting, volunteering, witnessing the changing face of Sacramento, and going on new adventures with her family and friends…Not to mention nightly walks and occasional mountain hikes with her dog, Emmett.

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