Archive for March, 2010

A little confession

Ok … today I have to confess something. After many years of using office software I discovered that a supposedly common function totally went under my radar. Here’s the mystery: You can actually HIDE slides in StarOffice Impress and Powerpoint. Ummmm. So far slides were rather binary to me: On or off (deleted). So there’s another option: You can just skip them in your preso. Nice, I’ll try it out next time ;)
But never mind, I heard the most powerful pitches are held in the old-fashioned way at a flip chart anyway!

PS – I believe I finally made it – a really short blog post ;)

March 30, 2010 at 08:56 3 comments

The New Project Manager

I had an interesting discussion last week again about the changing role of Project Managers. Quite timely, PMI posted a relevant article in their current PM Passport (‘The Next Generation of Project Managers’).

So what are the distinguishing qualities of the New PM? I’d say:

  • Collaborative/participative rather than autocratic leadership style
  • Understanding and appreciation of the business, seeing the project in the larger picture
  • Living the responsibility for project outcomes
  • Being a specialist in management disciplines such as Project Management in general (in different flavors, as fits best with the current project), Change Management, Communications and the like, rather than a technical expert
  • Using Web 2.0 tools, easily working across building / country borders

This trend is for one thing coming from within the PM community, accelerated by organizations such as PMI or OCG. For another thing, changing characteristics of the business environment and the projects themselves call for changed project leaders: Projects safely based in one ‘silo’ of an organization are getting somewhat rare. Most projects nowadays have a technical as well as an organizational component, touching different departments such as IT, HR, Finance, Sales,… Often, the need to integrate into the existing IT environments adds to the complexity. In such an environment, the ‘new’ PM style is more likely to succeed.

As with many things, also this medal has two sides: Not all organizations want / are ready or capable to deal with this new style yet, as it can seriously interfere with established structures, roles and the culture.

People I talked to seemed to share the impression that Germany is a bit behind in this trend. It is quite amazing how many job adverts for ‘senior’ PMs also list deep technical skills in one or the other area as requirement. Maybe this is due to Germany’s strong engineering culture, combined with and some typical German traits?

Would you second these thoughts and observations? Any comments?

March 22, 2010 at 09:22 1 comment

IT Study 2010 and Panel Discussion

As promised (better late than never), a few more thoughts from the presentation of the results of the ‘IT Studie 2010’ at the Cebit. The study involved about 280 mid-size (min of 200m EUR yearly turnover) to large companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (see my first Cebit post here)

I could not find the detailed results of the study online, so I’ll have to rely on my notes. The most interesting part was the panel discussion with CIOs of Fraport, Daimler, and Allianz, as well as the German MD of SAP, anyway.

A recurring topic was innovation vs. stability and the need to find a healthy balance here. Also, IT customers are becoming more experienced (and cost aware) and don’t follow every hype blindly any more.

I won’t bore you to death with numbers of desktop / server OS usage etc., you know the picture. What was interesting: Currently, 80% run Windows XP on the desktop, around 10% Vista, only 3% Windows 7. In three years, Windows 7 is expected to be running on 77% of the desktops. In the panel discussion afterward, it turned out that it is pretty common practice to skip major releases. Daimler and Fraport CIOs stated they had skipped Vista completely on their company desktops, and will make the move from XP directly to Windows 7. Speaking of innovation vs. stability!

Dr. Kleinemeier’s (SAP) comment on that topic was that SAP is trying to accommodate customers better by keeping the application core stable, and allowing them to update / add enhancements with more flexibility.

Many organizations expect shadow IT to grow again, facing reduced budgets.

I was a bit surprised when they stated the average usage time for laptops is 3.7 years, tendency still growing. Feeling better now about your Stone Age model?

ERP and particularly CRM systems are still huge building sites and will keep many of us IT professionals busy. 65% of the study participants had stated that their primary ERP system is SAP, followed by 10%, Oracle 4%, plus others. Interestingly, 30% of the SAP customers stated also they were open/looking for other options, which was far more than the other groups.

Little quiz: How many companies said that they have no CRM system at all?

  1. 10%
  2. 24%
  3. 37%

The correct answer is: 37%! Not sure what they’re using, maybe pen and paper or excel sheets they didn’t count as CRM ‘system’.

How many companies do you think have a ‘standard’ CRM system (SAP, MS, Oracle, Salesforce.com)?

  1. 15%
  2. 28%
  3. 55%

Correct answer: 28%. So there is still an amazingly high potential for standardization and interesting migration projects ;)

To summarize: 37% have no CRM system, 28% ‘standard’ systems, plus 35% ‘non-standard’ systems.

In the discussion, the three attending CIOs named usability as biggest challenge with their ERP systems, followed by up-to-dateness of data and support of mobile devices. Will usability of ERP systems ever be comparable to consumer products? Answer: This is a real balancing act with other requirements such as security and integrity, but one of the focus areas of the near future. Folks like sales reps or consultants working at their customers’ sites use their fancy iPhones, Blackberries, etc. The second they connect to their companies’ IT systems, things get slow, ugly, complicated, and they loose patience. Sounding familiar?

And last but not least something that was not mentioned at all: Cloud computing. It was probably in the study somewhere under virtualization as a means to reduce cost, but was not a big topic for the CIOs (yet?). One of them stated that they’re still waiting for a fair and attractive cost model.

If I ever find the study results online, I’ll post the link here.

March 12, 2010 at 20:24 Leave a comment

‘The IT Department is not a service provider’

Yesterday (Mar 3, 2010), I’ve spent an interesting day at the Cebit in Hannover, the ‘world’s biggest computer fair’ (really?). Overall, I didn’t find anything revolutionary. The fair was really busy, with many people at least in the central halls. It was a very interesting day anyhow. For me, presentations and panel discussions and new business contacts were most important.

In the morning, I joined a presentation of the results of a study being performed every year (‘IT Studie 2010′), which asks IT decision makers (CIOs, COOs etc.) of medium-sized to large companies about current and expected future developments. I’ll post more about it in my next post.

The panel discussion following the presentation of the study results was really interesting, with CIOs of Allianz, Fraport and Daimler AG, and the Managing Director of SAP in Germany, Michael Kleinemeier.

Towards the end, when discussing the CIO’s and IT’ role in modern companies, Daimler’s CIO Dr. Gorriz made a very clear statement: ‘The IT department is NOT a service provider within the company’. That was when I thought ‘hum?’, but then he continued: ‘… but an integral part, business partner and enabler’. Ok, that made sense.

For me, this is one more symbol for the IT growing up. It may sound pretty bold at first, but when you think about it, most companies could not survive without effective IT support of their business. In many cases, the business is purely immaterial, totally dependent on IT. This has implications for the CIO role and for IT strategy as well. IT strategy is not just an afterthought of the business strategy of the company, but needs to be fully integrated, and jointly developed.

It was really good to see this group of modern, self-confident CIOs, and Herrn Kleinemeier in the middle of them, sharing their thoughts. If possible, I’ll attend the same presentation next year. And then I’ll make sure I’ll have the time to enjoy the drinks and snacks afterward ;)

March 4, 2010 at 14:25 1 comment


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