Thought leader, Author and Speaker Michael Hugos talks about the Agile business, Gaming and Impact 2010
Shaku Selvakumar 060001XT47 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  agility business ibm innovation ibmimpact gaming cloud
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Mentor and author Michael Hugos has twice received the CIO 100 Award (2003, 2005) for bold and resourceful use of IT in driving business growth. His other accolades include the Computerworld Premier 100 Award (2006) for career achievement in IT. Michael spent six years as CIO of a multi-billion dollar national distribution cooperative, and is a recognized expert in strategies and techniques for business and IT agility.
Michael writes a blog for CIO magazine called Doing Business in Real Time. His most recent book was published in March 2009 titled “Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World.” His book on the business impact of cloud computing will be published in the fall by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
IBM: Hi Michael, thank you for taking time today. In your book Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World, you talk about adapting to change and process agility. Can you elaborate more on this topic?
Michael: When we hear the word “agility” it often stirs up gallant images of leaping athletes or charging tigers and sometimes those images obscure a more subtle and more important truth. That is that much of the work of adapting to change is a process of continuous small adjustments made every day and every week to keep existing operating processes in balance with changing conditions. For instance the process of routing delivery vehicles in a distribution company can become agile and flexible if people make daily adjustments to their delivery routes depending on traffic conditions, accidents, road work etc. But often delivery routes are set in advance and people are not empowered to change them so they follow procedures even though they are out of balance with the real world. When people get the training and trust to do their jobs and make their own decisions, when managers stop micromanaging their staffs, a lot of agility just naturally starts to happen. I call that kind of behavior responsiveness. Then of course there are the gallant moments when new opportunities come along and if we are agile enough we can leap on them and great things can happen when we do.
IBM: I understand that at Impact, you plan to talk about strategies to leverage cloud computing to create scalable, cost effective systems. Can you give us a sneak preview about your session?
Michael: I summarize these strategies with the saying, “Think big; start small; deliver quickly!” By that I mean that it’s very important to size up a business situation and find the handful of most important things or capabilities that are needed and then deliver them quickly. We IT people have been trained to analyze things and worry about all sorts of low probability events. We need to remember that a little bit of analysis can predict the near term future but lots of analysis cannot predict the longer term future so don’t do lots of analysis. Do a little good analysis and then use cloud computing and SaaS to put together systems that are what I call “robust 80% solutions” and get those systems into production quickly. Let people start using what you deliver and they will discover additional features they need. Then you build out the original system you delivered and add these features. And on it goes as you add more and more features to the system in response to evolving business needs. You don’t try to analyze everything and predict all possible needs before you build the system. Instead you take an iterative and pragmatic approach. You build what people need when they need it. That is what scalable and cost effective is all about.
IBM: You are passionate about gaming and social media tools to model and solve real world problems and your session on May 4 revolves around this topic. Can you elaborate?
Michael: One day it hit me that if you combine Google Earth with Second Life and add in a game like The Sims or Sim City you would get a virtual world (like Google Earth) where people could take on identities and interact with each other (as in Second Life) and where you could build cities and roads and offices and factories (an in The Sims and Sim City) and where things would take on a life of their own and develop and grow much as they do in the real world. You would have a place where millions of people from all over the world could interact and participate in real time to figure out how to deal with big hairy problems, everything from climate change to political and social and economic problems. In that virtual world we could apply our collective creativity and innovation to try out different courses of action and see what combinations of thousands of possible actions work best. We would also get the chance to find out what doesn't work and to find this out by screwing up a virtual world instead of messing up our real world.
We would get to learn from failures and mistakes without destroying ourselves in the process. Imagine applying a game like this to intractable political and social problems like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What if actual people, not just diplomats, could create and run hundreds of scenarios where different options where tested? In this virtual world there would be everything from virtual wars and terrorism to virtual peace treaties and building of new cities and settlements. Something like this is already happening in a category of real-time, cloud-based games called massively multi-player online games such as World of Warcraft and EVE Online.
IBM: I remember your blog post from last November where you talk about us living in exponential times and the need for business agility. How do we work smarter?
Michael: Going back to you first question about agility I think there is a similar point to keep in mind when we talk about working smarter. This does involve a big change but it happens in thousands of small steps not in a few great leaps. We are pretty smart already. What we need is a better and more timely flow of information delivered to us and we need business processes that allow us the autonomy and authority to think for ourselves and make our own decisions. At the company Best Buy they are rolling out a new way of working they call “Results Only Work Environment” or ROWE. Managers tell their people what their performance objectives are each month but then employees are free to figure out for themselves how they will achieve their objectives. And as long as they are achieving their objectives, people are free to come and go and schedule their lives as best fits their needs; no more mandatory nine to five days in office cubicles; no more micromanaging supervisors. What a novel idea; treat people like adults and give them the training and trust to act on their own.
In that blog of mine that you speak of I put in a link to a YouTube video called “Did You Know?” There are several versions of the video, but they all point out how fast things are changing now. We are truly at a global inflection point where economic, technical, political and environmental issues are coming together and change is happening at an exponential rate that seems totally out of control at times. It can be frightening. But it is important to remember that agility based on a thousand small adjustments made every day by people trained and trusted to do smart things is not such a radical idea. It is something we are all capable of. We can rise to the challenge by harnessing the collective smarts and creativity of all of us in real time interactions that are much like massively multi-player online games.
IBM: On a related note, is this your first Impact experience? We have a great lineup of speakers. Any sessions that has piqued your interest?
Michael: Yes this is my first Impact experience. It looks like an impressive lineup of speakers and knowing me I’ll wind up sitting in on the presentations relating to business agility and cloud computing. A lot of valuable events for me will also be the chance encounters and conversations that happen as I talk to the person sitting next to me or as I run into someone I know in the hallway between presentations.
Thanks Michael, much food for thought and I know that these ideas will be further expanded during your sessions at Impact.
If you are at Impact, don’t forget to add these sessions with speaker Michael Hugos to your agenda builder.
Continue the conversation at the Forbes Business Leadership Forum at Impact that includes tracks focusing on critical business topics such as: optimizing business processes, improving decision management, empowering the changing workforce, and globalization.
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