Some year-end thoughts about collaboration, teamwork and individual contributions



Watch this Video!

On June 11th, 2011 Eric Hassli of the Vancouver Whitecaps scored what has now been called perhaps the best goal in the history of North American major league soccer.  In this game the last ranked Vancouver Whitecaps played against the top ranked Seattle Sounders in what should have been a obvious Sounders victory, but it was not. Why?

Individual Contribution

Does collaboration and teamwork deliver success or does collaboration and teamwork just enable and amplify individual contributions that create success? In other words; can a team actually score a goal or does a team enable its players to score  goals for them? Does this nuance matter? I think it does.

When you look at the video you will note:

  • the ball is already down the field
  • Hassli gets an opportune pass
  • The defenders are occupied by his team mates
  • With great personal skill he executes the shot
  • All four things are required to get the goal

Effective collaboration and teamwork does not mean that every client interaction requires a bevy of best-buddies present. Effective collaboration is where you have the right people interacting with your client and their team is enabling them to do their best possible work for the client and make the team successful.

My checklist for effective teamwork and collaboration for the consulting business.

1) Understand that in the consulting business the client is buying consultants. It seems like an obvious statement but if you do not understand that consultants are not commodities, they are not interchangeable and they bring individual knowledge, experience and track record as their main assets then you have missed the main point of  consulting. There is an “I” in team, you just need to look closely for it.


2) Surround your consultants with people that amplify their skills and fill the skill gaps where necessary. Be rigorous in protecting your client from people with roles that do not add direct value to the client.

3) Think about the composition of the team from the client’s perspective and keep it client specific. What skills and capabilities does your client need to be successful? That should be the first question when thinking about a team model to serve your client.

4) Incentivize the right team behaviors. Kudos should not be handed out for how many meetings you participate in or the frequency of status updates on social networks. There is a difference between being busy and truly being collaborative. Behaviors that enable the team members to do their very best work for the client (first) and the practice (second) should be recognized and rewarded.

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CEO: Why you should worry more about XP than you did about Y2K


The Year 2000 came and went without all the horrific events speculated by the prognosticators of doom. Why was that? … It was because; we understood the problem (99-98=1 and 00-99=-99), we knew how to fix it, invested billions of dollars years in advance to fix it and fixed it before it became a problem.

The scale of the XP problem is much worse. Why?

Because few people even understand the problem.

Let’s try an analogy first.

  • You have bought a car in the year 2000. The manufacturer no longer has a warranty and there are no parts suppliers on the planet who make replacement parts for your car or mechanics who know how to fix it.
  • On April 9th, 2014 when you put the key in the ignition, the key locks in place and cannot be removed and the door locks are fixed permanently in the unlocked position. Wherever you park, you can turn the engine off, but cannot remove the key and if you leave your vehicle anyone can get inside, mess with your stuff or steal the car or its contents.
  • You can buy a new car but
    • You have to get your stuff moved from the old car
    • Your favorite cassette tapes all need to be converted to CD or repurchased on digital music streaming.
    • You lose what fuel is left in the tank

With those thoughts in mind, let’s explain 3 things you really need to know about the XP problem.

1) You can’t get hardware anymore.

Today is a special day; the last XP compatible PC rolls off an assembly line at Dell. Every other manufacturer has already stopped making XP compatible machines. What does this mean?

It means that the PC you use to send orders from the ERP system to your factory floor that has been sitting there for over a decade, when it broke before you sent someone to the computer store, they brought another PC back, plugged it in, restored the backup and you were back running again. Now when it breaks, you can’t get a computer to replace it. It stays broken… forever.

2) On April 9th 2014, XP is no longer fully supported by Microsoft at any price.

XP without a doubt was the single largest advance in operating systems ever. One of the reasons for that was that it made building great business applications simple and the operating system would eagerly do things with storage, memory and networking that was previously handled by complex application code. In fact XP was so good at this that it became easy for other programs to take advantage of those same services but for nefarious purposes. Viruses and malware became the bane of XP’s existence making it the most hacked piece of software of all time. On April 9th of 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting XP which means that you will no longer be able to get hardware, driver, firmware change support or fixes at any price. You can purchase critical security fixes from Microsoft but be aware these are only the “Top” priority ones. You are still exposed. Today, you likely don’t even know that you apply 20 or so updates or patches to your XP system every month to keep it healthy. On April 9th, that number goes to zero and your system is immediately exposed to threats.

“But I have Anti-Virus software!”. Sorry. The bad news is that AV software actually relies on operating system functions to do its job. AV software only protects you from viruses that are already known but when (not if) a new virus gets in and exploits the Operating System with no ability to patch the system. It’s game over. You are down, potentially permanently.

3) Well I’ll just move to Windows 8 if that happens.

A few things you need to know.

  • The existing computer may or may not be able to run Windows 8 and may need to be replaced. (CapEx warning)
  • Your XP Application may not run on Windows 8. As I indicated before the new Operating Systems are much more secure than XP. That means that they do not emulate many of XP’s bad habits like being friendly to applications requesting services before they are trusted. There is therefore a probability that an XP version of your application, simply will not run on Windows 8.1. Sometimes there are techniques for getting it to run, but they take remediation time and effort to accomplish. Sometimes there is nothing you can do and the application must be replaced.
  • Some applications you MUST upgrade to run. New versions of applications mean:
    • Business process impact
    • User Training Requirements
    • User Data Migration (excel spreadsheets, access databases etc.)
    • Organizational Change Management
  • You have more installed applications than you think that you actually run your business on. For companies where software installation is not centrally monitored and controlled it is not uncommon to find that users have installed 5-10 applications per year each that are now used daily to support your business. You can’t just ignore them. Some companies have 10’s of thousands of unique applications that were installed without IT department knowledge but do still play a critical part in running the business.

Plan and Budget accordingly, especially for the time required.

The biggest problem with XP is that many people don’t see it as a problem. If your company hasn’t budgeted and is executing on a robust XP remediation program to get you on a supported platform by the spring of next year, it’s time for a new CIO that will make it a priority.

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The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.- The PC



Mark Twain responded with those words to an article published June 1, 1897, in the New York Herald indicating his imminent death. He lived another 13 years. Today there is a lot of press about the death of the PC. The quote is very apropos to discussions of today’s personal computer longevity.

If you had the money would have just one vehicle to drive? I think not.

On a bright summer’s day is there anything better than a convertible sports car with the top down?


When you need to carry bulky garden items back from Home Depot, or head up a snowy mountain road to the ski resort certainly a 4×4 truck is best.


Heading out for dinner and a concert with friends, a nice four door sedan is the best fit.


Riding the road from Port Alberni to Tofino, British Columbia on Vancouver Island’s west coast, it must be done on a touring motorcycle to enjoy it the best.


Touring North America and wanting overnight stays on the banks of the most beautiful rivers, lakes and oceans, really requires a motorhome for the full effect and maximum fun.


Suffice it to say, there is no one perfect vehicle. This also applies to computing devices, there is no one perfect computing device. They each have a time, place and context in which they are best used; including the PC.

Let’s take the analogy a bit further.


In the “go anywhere” class are the tablets. Lightweight, long battery life, great for viewing the scenery and lousy at complex data entry. It’s a sports car. Not great for all weather conditions but it is fun and you can drive it to work occasionally.


In the “working class” are the classical PC’s. Big engines, high performance, highly versatile, very secure on snowy roads and will carry and do anything with great driver visibility and is intended for maximum productivity.


In the “executive class” are the laptops. Not as powerful as a regular PC (usually), but intended for both office, on the road and home use. It will never have the panoramic visibility or high speed data entry of its classical PC counterpart but wins on mobility and ease of access.


In the “Always connected everywhere” class are smartphones. The applications are simpler and more focused to information absorption than production but they have the advantage of instant communications and collaboration anywhere in an ultra-high mobility mode. It does a few things, very, very well in certain settings. It’s a great motorcycle.


In the “entertainment” class are home entertainment consoles. It is your TV, Game Console, Streamed Music and Movies, Fitness and Health center and Vacation picture display in a box. It does these very unique and very specific activities very, very well but is not intended for you to update an excel spreadsheet with your remote control and has limited usefulness at work. (so far)

Yes there is big growth in both smartphones and tablets. They are great devices but they are also very unlikely to be the only devices a  person uses.

· A Tablet does not have the same form factor or power as a PC and therefore will be less productive for high data interaction scenarios. An employer does not want its employees to be less productive at work.

· A Tablet is not an ideal phone. Its larger form factor makes it difficult to put in your pocket.

· A Smartphone is marginal for information consumption and nearly useless for information production because of its form factor and available power.

· A Laptop provides almost the same productivity as a classical PC but always trades off flexibility and power for mobility.

· None of the other devices provides an integrated entertainment experience like a dedicated entertainment console and if it ever has the input capabilities of a PC, then it has effectively become one. (and this may very well happen)

From an architecture perspective cloud services add more capability and power to higher mobility devices such as Tablets and Smartphones, however the physical engineering of the devices for form factor and input will postpone the demise of the PC for a while yet. Over the next decade voice and other human-machine interfaces will bolster the productivity of the smaller form factor devices but in the interim “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.- The PC”

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What’s wrong with individual success? … A sales lesson from a big cat.



I was born a Hunter. “Ian R. Hunter” if I am being literal but figuratively speaking, I have always been impatient with a farming approach, waiting for things to grow and would much rather just go out and hunt for success. I’ve also never been one for hunting in packs. I prefer to set my strategy, do it by myself and then bring something back to share with others. It has been a very successful approach for me and for the consulting companies I have worked for.

This approach however is sometimes deemed bad behavior in a team-centric organization. In the team world, everyone with revenue generating responsibilities is expected to hunt in packs. You need relationship managers, business development people, sales specialists, technology specialists, solution architects, quality assurance people, sales excellence people, governance people, public relations people, marketing people and of course with all those people involved you need managers too; sales managers, delivery managers, project managers and a project management office. It’s a big pack. It makes a lot of noise as it moves out for the hunt and your intended quarry and other hungry competitive predators can detect it from a very long distance away and worse yet can easily predict the pack’s every move.

However, after years of being told that my “team-player” attitude was sometimes lacking I finally made a very concerted effort to be a role-specific member of the pack this past year. I supported the other pack members, did my part to my best ability and all-in-all … it was not nearly as successful as it should have been. Why is that? Is there perhaps a problem with the pack model? Is it in fact synergistic or in fact does it actually result in a dilution of net sales effort?

I was recently told by one of our sales executives that we should all act more like Cheetahs. Point taken that more speed and agility are required for the hunt, but Cheetah’s have about a 50% catch ratio and also lose another 50% when they do catch their prey to bigger, stronger predators. (and apparently sometimes they are just disinterested… see below)


So I think the Leopard may actually be a better emulation model for a consulting services sales. The leopard is almost as fast but its higher success in the wild is primarily due to its opportunistic  hunting behavior. It is also intelligent, elusive, stealthy, not very picky about what it hunts and last but not least, solitary.

Opportunistic Hunting Behavior

The leopard does not hunt by going into the wild doing a fixed search pattern looking only for unattended 1 year old antelopes. It looks for opportunity. To be successful at consulting sales do we need more people, more processes, more sales tools, more “packaged” services or do we need perhaps to just ask our clients what the opportunity is to help them? When we ask that basic question it implies that the person asking the question can do two things competently:

· Understand the problem sufficiently well to discern whether or not ( and not may be the correct answer) the consulting organization could add value to the resolution of the problem or challenge

· Understand who from the consulting organization needs to be at the table with the client to elucidate further and to craft any possible proposal that drives true value for the client.

Perhaps the best opportunities originate from client need versus a marketing program?


A leopard was walking the forest one day. He sees a lion heading rapidly in his direction with the obvious intention of a leopard lunch. The leopard thinks, “Boy, I’m in deep trouble now.” Then he noticed some bones on the ground close by, and immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching lion. Just as the lion is about to leap, the leopard exclaims loudly, “Man, that was one delicious lion. I wonder if there are any more around here?” Hearing this the lion halts his attack in mid stride, as a look of terror comes over him, and slinks away into the trees. “Whew”, says the lion. “That was close. That leopard nearly had me.” Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the lion. So, off he goes. But the leopard saw him heading after the lion with great speed, and figured that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the lion, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the lion. The lion is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving leopard.” Now the leopard sees the lion coming with the monkey on his back, and thinks,” What am I going to do now?” But instead of running, the leopard sits down with his back to his attackers pretending he hasn’t seen them yet.
And just when they get close enough to hear, the leopard says, “Where’s that damn monkey? I just can never trust him. I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another lion, and he’s still not back!!”
You don’t have to be the most powerful but you do have to be smart.

Elusive & Stealthy

Elusive does not imply anything sinister. Elusive simply means that you are difficult to catch. You can be faster than your competitors, you can also be more agile but the point being is that they either don’t know where you are or can’t catch up to you. Stealth again does not imply anything sinister. Stealth means that you are unobtrusive and you don’t make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. The only known natural predator of the (much larger) gorilla is the leopard and that is only possible because of the leopard’s stealth.

Two contrary examples may help explain.

You are responding to a public Request for Proposal (RFP). The process allows you to formally ask questions to the client and the questions and answers are provided to all RFP respondents.

Q: “Would you please tell us if we were to propose an upgrade to your PeopleSoft module X instead of a custom solution if it would be evaluated as compliant to section 12.4”

A: “Yes, it would be deemed compliant”

Now every other respondent knows one of your key strategies, can price it and compete or align with it.

You are engaged in selling a services contract for a competitive replacement of a new portal solution. You ensure that every user and stakeholder has a copy of your detailed business case and proposal for the solution to garner wide and deep support for your solution. However, there a people who are supporters of an upgrade to the current solution who can now provide alternate proposals and know exactly where that counter-proposal needs to be to be less costly.

You have not acted with stealth. It is important to communicate well to your client and is equally important to ensure that your client is working with you to determine what information is being communicated, to whom and when. The best rule of thumb is to take a lesson from the leopard and not make more noise than absolutely necessary.


For a pack hunt to be successful there is a lot of communication necessary between the members of the pack to keep it focused and coordinated. That takes time and consumes energy, both of which are in very finite supply. While these internal coordination activities take place, the distance between the pack and the intended quarry widens. Into that gap falls opportunity for other predators that are closer or faster, defensive maneuvers or perhaps they just become inaccessible.

A client only considers engaging a consultant when there is explicit business value in doing so and time to value realization will always be a major consideration. What we need to consider is that the time to value realization calculation does not start with the signing of a consulting contract, the calculation starts with the first pre-sales meeting with the client.

The leopard is not the fastest animal, but it is still very fast.

Not very picky

The leopard will not likely ever become an endangered species, unlike a services sales person that sells only a single narrow service to a market that may not need it today or even tomorrow… The leopard understands sustenance comes in many shapes and sizes and depending on the season being flexible in what you hunt can make the difference between vibrant health and starvation.

While it is true that the best margins in consulting are derived from providing a replicated service, specifically one where you have developed reusable IP, process and highly specific skills. It does not mean however that the client needs it. Sometimes the customer’s needs and our preferred services will align but it the overall health of consulting business depends on our ability to exploit the breadth and depth of our consulting resources experience and capabilities to provide business value for what our clients actually need today.


When the pursuit is solitary, there is no danger of accidental collision, there is no energy tax from alliance management and there is no excuse for failure. Nothing brings a pursuit into focus better than 100% accountability to bring home dinner or else realize the hunger.

Want to increase sales? The lesson from the big cat is to be opportunistic, be smart, be stealthy, sell what the client wants to buy and don’t have more players involved in the pursuit than you really need.

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How today’s technology will help you with your ageing parents

Most of us will see or have seen our parents age. Ageing cannot be prevented; slowed perhaps, but not radically so. When our parents age they will experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Strength, energy and speed of the body decreases
  • Muscle mass decreases
  • Base Metabolic Rate decreases
  • Aerobic Capacity decreases
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Lose neurons in the brain which may lead to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Senile Dementia
  • Sense of hearing drops
  • Sense of taste drops
  • Sense of vision, especially in low light decreases
  • The velocity of blood flow decreases
  • Restorative sleep becomes scarcer
  • Digestion becomes slower and less complete

What it means fundamentally is that the strong, self-sufficient person you grew up with is becoming less strong, less self-sufficient every day and will likely arrive at a point where some assistance is required for them to live safely with a decent quality of life. However if you ask them how they are doing, the likely response is “I am fine, don’t worry about me”. How do you know when they need more help? (Especially if you cannot be there yourself)


In the home a Kinect device can provide important healthcare information for a remote caregiver. The device can provide:

  • An on-going assessment of regular waking hours and movement throughout the home
    • “Are you getting out these days?” (Kinect data would be 0 during daytime if the parent is)
    • “Are you okay making your meals” (Kitchen area detection points, stove, fridge etc.)
  • Speed & Direction analysis – Are the movements such as walking getting slower or not a straight path
    • “Are you getting around okay?”
  • Fall or Stumble Detection and alerting


How would you respond to the chart above? “So tell me what you were up to on Wednesday? Go out somewhere fun?”


The other technology that supports healthcare feedback is the RF Micro-Accelerometer. In short, if it moves you know when and for how long. Where does this provide meaningful feedback on your parent’s condition?

  • Attached to the toilet flush handle, you will know if daily or nightly visits are becoming more frequent or becoming a problem.
  • Attached to a bed you will know how long and how restless the sleep is.
  • Attached to a Medication pill dispenser you will know if they are at least remembering to pick up the dispenser and how many times a day.

Microsoft HealthVault and health monitoring device vendors today also provide the ability for home healthcare data to be automatically uploaded to a secure health record where a caregiver can have access to data created from other devices such as:

  • a blood pressure monitor
  • an ECG device
  • a heart rate monitor
  • a peak flow meter
  • a positive airway pressure (pap)
  • a pulse oxymeter
  • a weight scale

(The parent themselves or an itinerant home care attendant may take the readings)

What the technology today provides is the ability for an ageing parent to retain their independence longer with dignity. It allows the caregiver to be proactive in helping with their healthcare and will help in making good decisions about the type and level of care or assistance that is best.

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Utility computing is only for Commodity IT services



When you pull up to an intersection in your car and there are two self-serve gas stations, both have 87 octane regular fuel and one station is 10% less expensive than the other, which one do you buy fuel at?

The cheaper one of course, because the fuel is a commodity. It provides exactly the same performance (87 octane) and in fact was likely made in the same refinery. In this example, neither station provides you any additional value, differentiated service nor better performance. The cheapest price gets your business.

What services in IT are like fuel?

  • No value add over any other service
  • No better performance
  • No competitive differentiation for your company

Let’s look at desktop video conferencing (DVC) as an example. It is offered by numerous vendors as a “utility service” virtually all vendors provide high quality, video, audio and a good set of conferencing tools. According to the criteria above DVC qualifies as a commodity utility service. Today in organizations where DVC is deployed in a discrete utility model it is effectively used by less than 5% (on average) of the people who have it available in commercial and public sector enterprises. What does that tell you?

In any business you drive down the cost of commodity expenses and you invest in things that differentiate you or give you competitive advantage. When someone tells you that IT is now a commodity utility service, what do you do? For certain, you need to make sure the service in question IS actually a commodity.

Any IT service has two very important attributes; the functionality delivered by the service and the delivery of the service that makes it not only possible to get adoption but also highly productive use of the service and the associated benefits from actually using it.

The acquisition, deployment and operations cost of the utility DVC service is without question a cheap commodity service, but if it is not adopted there is no actual business value.

In utility computing it is not about elasticity (very few customers have massive burst requirements really) , it’s not about unattended operations (operations cost on a well managed virtualized environment is not that high), it is about POWER and heat.

Let’s keep the math simple. Suppose you have a datacenter with 100,000 servers and each server draws 1000 watts of power. That’s 100 Megawatts of power drawn. Now that 100 Mw gets turned into heat, so no surprise that in most climates you need another 100 Mw of cooling just to bring the datacenter back to the previous operating temperature.

Now let’s assume the following (from Wikipedia )

Suppose you are a utility computing provider and you place a contract with a Canadian electricity producer for 3.5 cents per KwHr. Your 200 Mw datacenter costs you $3,500 per hour or approximately $31 Million per year in power costs only.

That same datacenter if it was located in Brazil it could cost you $310 Million per year in power. Assuming ubiquitous, low latency networks it would make sense that most Brazilian enterprises would have their non-mission critical applications hosted in a utility model in a Canadian datacenter. Facilities and hosting are clearly a commodity and for most IT infrastructure services commercial SLA’s are achievable and sustainable in a utility model.

Is the same true of higher level IT services?

If you use a Utility application in your business, you must be able to make the clear decision that being the same as everyone else is okay. You do not need to be better or differentiate yourself.

  • Does your email system just need to be good enough or is it actually an important part of your business processes?
  • What about collaboration tools?
  • What about your CRM solution?
  • What about your ERP solution?
  • What about your HR solution?
  • What about your financial solutions?

Is being the same as everyone else sufficient for your business?

UPS and FedEx are fierce competitors. They effectively do the same business; they pick up and deliver parcels using trucks and aircraft. The IT services that these companies use to compete and differentiate themselves are not commodities. They strategically build business ideas into software solutions to give them an edge on their competitors. Do they use the same utility truck route scheduling system? Of course not. They build custom systems that give them distinct competitive advantage. It is by definition, the opposite of a commodity.

You may hear industry pundits claim (some of them rhyme with “Partner”) that the day of custom solutions is over and everything will become a utility in the cloud. They could not be more wrong. Only things that are true commodities to an enterprise will be utilities (datacenter infrastructure is a good example) but the need to differentiate and compete will continue to be an axiom for the future.

The trick is to know the difference.

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