Information Processing Managers Association Newsletter banner

January, 1988

Monthly Association Meeting

February 4, 1988
Kings Table
1818 E. 4th

12:00 Noon

Speaker: Robert Fitchitt
"Mega Systems Study -
Where Do We Go From Here"


We want your input!

The IPMA Newsletter staff :is always looking for articles of specific interest to our State information processing community.

Send your drafts to:

Kathy Marston, Editor
DIS - 1310 Jefferson
Mail Stop: PE-11
Phone: 586-2832


Table of Contents

Jan. 7 Meeting Minutes
Agenda
Forum '87 Discussion Panel Synopsis
Announcements


JANUARY 7 MEETING MINUTES

Submitted By: Tara Wolff, IPMA Secretary

Darrel Riffe, Chairman opened the meeting at 12:00 Noon.

Luncheon Speaker

Program Chairman, Jeff Boyce introduced Bob Marlatt from the Executive Consulting Group. Bob has been in data processing for some time and helped install a nationwide system for Boise Cascade. Bob talked about four broad strategies for systems development. He stated that every data processing manager faces four key challenges: building quality systems, meeting user needs, increasing productivity and reducing re-work. He presented four strategies for addressing these challenges: Business Event Partitioning, Information Modeling, Data Access Modeling and Concurrent Analysis. He then gave an explanation of each of the four strategies.

Business Event Partitioning is business transaction oriented. The partitioning coincides with the users understanding of the system by creating logical program units that maintain their identity throughout the system development process. It allows processes to be defined in terms of essential components. It also allows elimination of technological and administrative false requirements.

Bob then talked about Information Modeling and presented some example heuristics or rules-of-thumb that he uses to validate entities when doing entity/relationship modeling.

The third strategy he discussed was Data Access Modeling, Data Access Modeling answers questions not addressed in Process or Data Modeling {i.e., frequency, volumes, security, growth, etc.). Data Access Modeling defines database navigation paths, with a user view orientation, independent of implementation technology.

The fourth strategy, Concurrent Analysis, approaches modeling from three complementary viewpoints: data events and processes. With this approach one analyst does both data analysis and design, process analysis, and data flows. This eliminates conflicts between data designers and programmer/analysts and allows the analyst to view systems from multiple perspectives.

Old Business

Leonard Roberts gave an update on the Manager's Matrix and CIC Assistant classification. We cannot expect to see any significant progress on the Manager's Matrix until mid-summer as a key staff person at DOP is on leave until then. However, work can continue on the skills and ability listing of the Job classes and wording can be improved. Draft copies are available (call Darrel Riffe at 753-2509) and any comments should be addressed to Leonard Roberts, Assistant Director - Information Systems, MS: PC-01.

The CIC Assistant proposal will be out in about two months. It will be paraprofessional to provide an entry point for the CIC series.

New Business

Louie Orlando, Chairman of the speakers bureau, presented plaques to Jim Michael and Dennis Jones in appreciation of their speaking engagements.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:13 p.m.


Speakers Bureau

Anyone interested in being a speaker or taking over for Louie as coordinator of the Speaker's Bureau, please call Louie Orlando at 753-7335.


AGENDA February 4, 1988

  1. Introduction of Guests

  2. Guest Speaker

    Robert Fitchitt
    LEAP Administrator
    "Mega Systems Study - Where Do We Go From Here"

  3. Approval of Minutes

  4. IPMA Board Report

  5. ISB Announcements

  6. Old Business

  7. New Business

  8. Correspondence

  9. Other Comments/Announcements

  10. Adjournment

FORUM '87 DISCUSSION PANEL SYNOPSIS

By: Normaglen Kipp

A high point of the recent Information Technology FORUM '87 was the panel of top information technology managers discussing the topic "Managing Technology Today.'

The panel members were:

Darrel Riffe, Department of Revenue and IPMA Chair

Susan Mersereau, Weyerhaeuser and Infor. Services Board

Jack Morris, Office of Administrator For the Courts

Leonard Roberts, Department of Licensing

Dan Fannin, Dept. of Social and Health Services

The moderator was John Flanagan of the Department of Information Services.

Building on a handful of leading questions, the panel described the Washington State information technology community's major issues and concerns.

The discussion was greeted with spontaneous applause several times. Those attending were enthusiastic in praising the panel members. A number of attendees asked that more such forthright and public discussions be held regularly, perhaps under the sponsorship of the IPMA.

Following is a synopsis of the discussion prepared to document the issues so strongly raised by the panel and supported by the audience. It is for the benefit of those who missed the panel discussion and those who want the issues to be followed tip by community action.

Uniqueness of Managing Technology Today

Information technology (IT) today is unique in that it's impossible to pin down with static descriptions and traditional expectations. Its nature is constant change. Its personnel are agents of change and outside the traditional establishment.

Credibility of IT Managers in the Business

Information technology managers must become knowledgeable about organizational business to be more effective in the success and evolution of organizations. They must become aggressive about getting involved at the planning-management level. They need to see the part information technology knowledge and systems can play from the business side as well as from the technology side. Then they can aggressively communicate IT's business value, its capabilities, requirements and intentions, to their business colleagues.

Credibility of IT-Business Managers in the IT Organization

IT managers who are business knowledgeable must also explain planning, management and budget issues to their IT staff. Some IT managers are in an odd spot between their business colleagues and their IT staff. Business staff say, 'We thought you were a technologist, not one of us.' IT staff complain, 'Why do you talk like them? We thought you were one of us.'

IT managers must explain benefits to both sides. the 'them-us' mentality must give way to work marriages (or if that's too drastic, at least affairs) between the business and technical sides.

IT and Business Cross-over Managers

IT managers are beginning to participate effectively at the strategic level of business. A growing number of top IT managers have additional talents and expertise in disciplines and fields other than information technology. Organization business managers who have demonstrated success in business projects are being recruited by IT managers. Recruited business managers are taught enough technical detail to be successful in managing, for example, major telecommunications projects.

State-Of-The-Art

Media over-simplification, advertising, vendor hype and even IT overselling lead some organization leaders to expect more than is currently reasonable. Enough money might get them nearly what they expect, but state-of-the market is difficult enough without attempting state-of-the-art.

Total Systems Solutions

There are no hoped-for final solutions, no "total systems solutions." There is no automatic, all inclusive compatibility. Information technology is progressing so rapidly that any so-called total solution or standard immediately becomes obsolete and self-contradictory. Organization leaders need to see their dream of finality and stability in IT as not only impossible but undesirable.

Technical Project Failures

A popular image of information technology systems development is that many projects are failures. This perception frequently is totally or partially inaccurate. It can result from shifts and changes in plans, technology goals and funding as well as from misunderstanding of intended results.

Problem Communication

The essential step in preventing development of unsatisfactory systems is effective communication. IT technologists must get a very clear understanding of the customer's problem. They must explain clearly the exact results that will be produced. Too many completed systems have simply missed the mark.

Private and Public Sector Technology Management

Two main differences between information technology development in the private and public sectors are budgeting and approval. A private organization bases its IT budget on expected payback to the enterprise. A public organization bases its IT budget on a share of anticipated public funds - which may not come through as expected or may be cut off later. Project approval in a private organization probably comes from selling and pleasing a small number of officers. In the public sector, in addition to agency officers, some or all of an entire legislative body can be involved.

Private and Public Sector Protect Scrutiny

The public and private sectors are alike in that legislative or corporate scrutiny and media publicity occur in both when it appears that something is going wrong. Very little scrutiny and publicity attend success. The situation isn't offset by IT managers who quietly consider their successes as 'Just doing our jobs." They must become as aggressive in publicizing success as the media are in publicizing problems.

Curtailed Projects

The perception of project failure may occur because the result looks different from the first published plan. Two reasons for differences in the outcome of the systems projects are that IT is not only an agency bringing change, it's frequently subject to change. Priority shifts or reductions in resource allocations cause hasty completions, curtailed projects, postponements and cancellations. ("What are we doing that's far enough along that we can declare it finished right where it is? What are we doing that's not too far along to cancel?") Some such results aren't failures, but curtailed or only partial successes.

Project Plan Changes

A plan can change during development because requirements change, priorities change (a political hazard), and constraints change. The developing product may improve because knowledge of factors becomes more complete during development. Technology advances may become available either commercially or from staff research and development {R&D). An altered result may mean an improved plan, not a failed plan.

Actual Project Failures

Some project efforts do fail. It's appropriate and necessary there be some failures in a dynamic technological environment. Absence of failures would mean there was too little research and development. It would mean a lack of innovation, creativity, improvement, learning, optimization, challenging of product claims and pushing on boundaries. There would be little opportunity for individuals, specialties and management to grow.

Necessity for Risk-Taking

Risk-taking is essential for management and technology to learn to be controllers of progress and change rather than victims. The best managers and specialists are not those who don't take risks and don't learn how to handle consequence. No effort fails in the sense that nothing of value is learned from it. It's strong management to nurture a learning environment that allows mistakes in order to derive the benefits of innovation and expertise.

Bureaucracy

Traditional organizational structures work against information technology development. Bureaucracy can require such prolonged approval processes and extensive justification that project time and money are depleted and plans are outdated. Resources may be doled out in such a way that projects start, stop, adapt and crawl on for years. The plans and budgets that would be flexible and responsive enough in that environment would have to be open-ended. It's difficult to bring a clear-cut success out of such a situation.

Resource Redirection

Service needs and legislated requirements outgrow projected plans and approved budgets. A typical response by organizational management is to reduce or redirect limited IT resources. IT personnel are not instantly interchangeable between projects and functions. Time and money IT could have spent on expanding capacity is spent instead closing down some work-in-progress and retraining staff to move to other systems. IT managers must describe in detail the consequences of this practice. They must graphically illustrate the costs and results of continuing to spread their resources thinner. Then let the organizational managers choose the products and degrees of quality they're willing to sacrifice.

Optimum IT Personnel Structure

As information technologists develop as innovators, specialists, experts and 'knowledge managers,' their natural organizational structure becomes leaner, flatter and more effective. It operates based more on professionalism, independence and cooperation than on supervision and reporting. This is another case of the traditional structure working in direct opposition to its own best interests.

Traditional Personnel Structure

The traditional structure determines individuals' salary and decision status according to how much budget they control and how many persons are below them in their hierarchy. Organizations should reward professionals for what they do and what they know, not for expanding the amount of resources they control.

Optimum Organizational Structure

State government IT in particular should be active in conversion to organization structures closer to current functional needs. Today's IT managers are knowledgeable about the particular business of their organizations. They no longer spend their resources trying to satisfy all individual requests as they come in. Now they carry out long-range organizational development plans. Priorities are based on the overall strategic plan of the organization. Many IT functions are being restructured to optimize creation and maintenance of organizational systems. Functional restructuring of IT to reflect this kind of organizational support may require sub-optimization of some of its current components. That may be the most difficult adjustment for IT personnel to handle.

Management Relationship of IP and Telecommunications

Advances in IT itself are imposing the need for changes in organizational alignments. Information processing (IP) and telecommunications (TC) are both part of current information technology. They shouldn't be administered as separate organizations. For example, preparation of a single office may be arranged Just before a TC-IP hook-up. Instead, organizations should coordinate preparation of whole facilities into long-range planning - perhaps as part of new building construction ("smart buildings"). This kind of coordination works best under a single administration. Information processing seems the logical administrator.

Privatization and Contracted Consultants

The question of privatization considers whether government should hire private companies, consultants and contractors to carry out some of its functions. It asks whether government overuses contractors as an easy way for state managers to manage technology. Responses from IT managers vary. The use of consultants may depend on recent history of current climate in an agency as well as on budget and time considerations.

The choice is usually between renting expertise and developing expertise to add to the state's personnel inventory. However, large projects sometimes use consultants on contract to avoid hiring state experts into temporary employment. They won't need the extra project hires after the project ends and can't offer them permanent positions.

Sometimes there are political considerations. An agency may have had negative publicity about a recent project. An agency officer who wants to avoid accountability for the outcome of a project could be a reason ( a poor reason) for employing consultants.

State Employees

The other side of the question concerns using state employees. State workers are consistently characterized by those who work with them as extraordinarily committed. A perceived drawback to using contractors is that they work standard hours and do only specified and contracted work. Anything unforeseen or additional is itemized and charged. In contrast, the perception of state workers is that they do whatever is needed, not just what's required. They work missions and Jobs, not hours. One manager gives a humorous comparison between contracted and state workers as not being able to picture his IT staff dropping their work promptly at 5:00 every day, or hearing them say about an assignment, "That's not in my CQ!" (CQ is a position job description.)

Summary

In summary, on handling roadblocks to managing technology effectively, information technology managers are advised:

To become more aggressive in communicating opportunity and success within their organizations, agencies and community.

To broaden their expertise to include business and interpersonal as well as technology and to use it.

To insist on clear and complete communication of requests, problems and solutions.

To advocate appreciation of staff commitment and excellence and to spell out the consequences of resource reductions.

To press for revising the state personnel structure to reward individual contribution, expertise and value instead of amount of resources controlled.


Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems

A briefing for DP Managers and personnel on identifying AI/ES applications in state agencies will be held March 29th at the Tyee, It is sponsored by the IPMA special interest group and will be presented by Arthur Anderson personnel. Dr Ruben Marti will be sending invitations to State DP Managers and providing more information for future issues of the newsletter.


The Resource Center for the Handicapped (RCH) and the Seattle Supersonics present "Project Slam Dunk.'

This is an annual event and a major source of funding for RCH scholarships. All tickets are $15.00, $7.50 goes to the RCH.

The game is Friday, February 28th at 7:30 in the Seattle Center Coliseum. The Sonics play the Sacramento Kings. For tickets or more information please call Kristie at 362-2273.