TBM: Running your Practice, Part 1 -- Structural Competency
“The best CIOs are GM’s of the most complex business within a business,” he said. And he was a terrific CIO. You’ll hear me often say that the best engagements are when consultants and clients learn from each other.
They implicitly coach each other.
That CIO’s quote is at the heart of TBM – Technology Business Management.
The mindset of combined technical rigor and business orientation is the gut instinct for every leader and professional in the best firms, as they juggle multiple needs:
Customers are inside the company, and customers are outside the company.
Supply chains and contracts penetrate clouds; and they can reside in on-prem data centers.
Finance runs its ledger; IT runs its tangible budget.
Business processes are serviced by apps; app dev costs and consumption are variable.
Customers need help; support services provide the aid.
New products ship; delivery chains are everyone’s concern.
And those are just a quick, simplistic way of acknowledging that TBM cuts across a myriad of processes and activities. It's all over the place -- laundry lists of complexity.
The core to Technology Business Management (TBM) is balancing the T and the B. Neither takes precedence; they are equals.
TBM requires you to think of IT as a business. And it’s not just for the CIO. Every area of IT is yet another business within the business.
Think of your own department or function not as a transactional To-Do list, but as a practice.
You are running a practice.
In a fast-tracked validation of TBM thinking, we execute against a four-step process:
1. Viewing and communicating your accountability as a core set of domains;
2. Measuring the current Optimization Level;
3. Identifying Risks associated with standing pat, and the Benefits of optimizing;
4. Creating the improvement, via consumable and feasible steps forward.
Today we will focus on (1) – the TBM structure of your core domains. It is not necessarily an Org or Function perspective, although it can be.
What are the core and mandatory foci of your practice? You can be in R&D, or DevOps, or MSP Operations, or Cyber, or Architecture, or Product Management. You are expected to speak fluently in the technology aspects and the business orientation. In all areas you compartmentalize your practice into a set of domains.
When you see a job description, there are a dozen, sometimes two dozen itemized objectives to achieve. Sometimes those are in posted job reqs, a bagful of stuff that you’re supposed to do, where you’re supposed to excel.
But measuring TBM in your domain is not a laundry list of tasks. Certainly many tasks will fit into larger buckets, but if you’re managing your practice through scores of To-Do’s, the complexity and disjointed nature of the tasks prevent a well-managed, compartmentalized center of excellence; i.e., your great practice.
Take, for example, Product Management. As practice head, what’s your practice do? Your overall value is enormous and the multi-faceted competencies critical.
Product Strategy and Stakeholder Collaboration
Product Portfolio management
Customer Engagement and Change Management
They are the domains within your area that are managed and operationalized, for good or ill.
Then for each domain there are disciplines within.
Improving your practice demands that you elevate your accountabilities against the discipline perspectives -- both Operational rigor and the Business Orientation.
For example, in the domain of Roadmap Integration, the Operational Excellence Discipline is "Roadmap Execution Management" -- how well we manage and deliver the roadmap.
The Business Orientation Discipline (within the Roadmap Integration domain) is "Enterprise Collaboration" -- how well we are aligning to our business plans and communicating with the rest of the company. After all, while you are advancing excellent Product Management, you share ownership of the roadmap with the entire executive team.
Practice leaders (any executive or manager) who enhance their domains, are successful as Technology/Business leaders, across both discipline perspectives.
(Note, your own product management domains may slightly differ, depending upon the nature and operating model of your company.
But to get your arms around your accountability, you structure your basic taxonomy. Then your optimization plan will depend on moving your maturity up two axes.)
TBM applies to every corner of the store. Information Technology, Digital Transformation; Implementation of cutting edge AI, Cloud MSP architecture, Data Analytics; blockchain, DevSecOps… no matter what you are managing there are core TBM capabilities that you offer as your tangible value.
Therefore, the performance of your domain should focus on elevating your maturity across two axes. Each has bearing on the ROI of your “practice.”
Outputting new product features, no matter how cool or robust means nothing, unless there is full business immersion.
When we discuss the progression of each domain, we will enumerate stepwise tiers toward higher levels of optimization (or maturity). The above showed the Current State of our fictitious Product Management department, and the plot indicates that we are far from optimal. We typically use a five-point scale, where absence of good TBM practices are at Level 1; the highest level of maturity is 5.
(Note there is hardly a consulting group (the great as well as the small) that won’t have their own Maturity framework. Most models will work, with a caveat – mandate consistency around your domains and disciplines, as you communicate with the teams and the firm; ensure everyone's paradigm follows your taxonomy and structure.)
So articulating your accountability, think of your department as your practice, just as any CEO manages her own company and manages a set of domains throughout the whole enterprise.
Optimal domain explication is not rattling off 25 different day-in-the-life tasks, with no rhyme nor reason how they stack into a manageable/digestible view of your accountability, nor how they represent core drivers. This is all about compartmentalizing and managing, to provide optimal execution and business collaboration.
You serve customers, manage the finances, and ensure the practice evolves against eco-system dynamics.
You optimize your practice’s value by progressing on Operational Excellence and on Business Orientation.
In Part 2, we’ll delve into the Operational Excellence scale and the Business Orientation scale.
Moving up the scale requires a stepwise series of activities; enhancing your department will depend on feasibility and projected gain.
Will we stand pat, move up one notch, or do we shoot for the moon?