What’s New

June 14, 2017

Do you manage documents using a modern-day Frankensystem?

The way we create, review, localize, store and manage documents in the pharmaceutical industry today bears a striking resemblance to the story of Frankenstein’s monster (at least in the original film version). Several tools, systems and processes are cobbled together to manage the high volume of documentation needed to support drug development and commercialization, without much planning, testing or feedback.

How did we get here?

Like many sectors, the pharmaceutical industry is known for functional siloes, which make it difficult to communicate and collaborate across the enterprise. The challenges are magnified when multiple systems are involved, and further compounded when information
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Escaping the Information Vortex

When we talk to our clients and colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry, their stories are very consistent: They are overwhelmed by the amount of information and documentation required to research, develop, approve, launch and commercialize a drug.

As one executive said, “If you think about it, we really produce two products: the marketed drug—and all of the documentation needed to support it through its lifecycle. And somehow, somewhere along the way, it becomes an information vortex.”
How did we get here?
The demand for information and documentation has grown exponentially as regulatory and compliance requirements have increased in scope and complexity. Patients,
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May 7, 2015

What Would Bobby Fischer Do? Taking a Cybersecurity Lesson from a Chess Master

There’s a great expression that those of you who study chess will be familiar with. A Master will often tell a student to “look at the whole board,” but this instruction is not to be taken literally. It means that the student needs to consider several things: One, the potential impact of all the moves that have been played; two, all the potential moves they can anticipate making through the end of the game, and three, all the moves they can anticipate their opponent making. A small expression to describe a herculean task! Now, although this saying could be
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April 23, 2015

Are you too focused on the technical aspects of cyber security?

When someone mentions information security, invariably thoughts go to technical aspects such as firewalls, routers, wireless access points and how to set those devices up—or to physical aspects such as locks, security guards and fences. These are the technical and physical controls that usually comprise our understanding of how to achieve the best level of security possible. But controls for information security fall into three main categories: the physical and technical—which we’ve already described—and the administrative, which often receives short shrift. Why?

My guess is that administrative controls are considered “soft,” focusing on management and training, and it’s pretty enticing
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Is Your Head in the Cyber Security Sand?

“We started as a relatively small company. Through success and internal growth along with some acquisitions, we are now a medium- sized company using the same policies and processes as when we first started.”

Does this sound familiar?

If so, take solace in knowing that you are not alone, but things have to change. For many companies, growth has outpaced their policies and processes, which can be a risky situation, especially in cyber security.

In information security, due care means “acting responsibly and doing the right things.” While information security is a very complex field, there are certain basic building blocks that
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March 25, 2015

CIOs—Unsung Heroes

In my 35+ years of being a corporate change agent, and now at the helm of my own consultancy, I have worked with all levels of the C-suite, and I have to say the CIO role is by far the most difficult. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is an outdated model of the C-suite itself.

The fact is that most companies still view IT and the CIO role through the narrow lens of providing technology-based services; they have not broadened that view to take into account the stunning changes wrought by digital technology.
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ASSESSING YOUR ORGANIZATION’S CYBER SECURITY: THINK YOU’RE UP TO IT?

The Enron debacle will forevermore be a parable about delusional self-auditing. In much the same way, Cyber Security should never be assessed using internal staff and mechanisms, the ramifications of missing something are simply too great.

According to Cenzic ‘s Application Vulnerability Trends Report: 2014, “While the majority of corporations have the important security building blocks, such as firewalls and intrusion protection systems needed for their security infrastructure, not enough organizations have comprehensive tools and practices in place for securing applications.” Faced with a worldwide shortage of Cyber Security professionals (Cyber Security has only recently become a discipline one may
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February 25, 2015

Cyber Security: No Company is Too Small

CYBER ATTACKS: NO COMPANY IS too small

Many companies think because they are small they are immune to a cyber attack—after all, they do not have the net worth of, say, Target ($38B) or Home Depot ($55B) or Walmart ($250B). This is a dangerous misconception. The fact is, whether you are worth millions or billions you are at risk, and your insignificant size might be the very thing putting you in jeopardy.

What makes a small business attractive to hackers? For one thing, smaller enterprises often don’t have the resources to implement the programs and training necessary to prevent, detect, and
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Hackers Aren’t Waiting. Why Are You?

Hackers Aren’t Waiting. Why Are You?

Why is Cyber/Computer Security so far down on your to-do list? If your reasons are any of the following, you might want to reconsider your priorities.

Let’s address each of these points in turn.

They can’t find you.  On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, Dave DeWalt, CEO of cyber security company FireEye, asserted that 97% of all companies are being breached. Ninety-Seven percent. So, unless you truly live off the grid, you have likely had a breach already. The real question is how bad is the damage?

They can’t find your valuables.  These criminals are very
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November 24, 2014

GET SMART About Unstructured Data. CONTROL or CHAOS? (Or is it KAOS?)

How Smart are you? Here’s a quick quiz to find out:

1. In the mid-60’s TV show Get Smart, Don Adams’ fellow female agent was Agent number what?

a. 79

b. 89

c. 99

d. 229

 

2. True or False

Unstructured data is human-generated, existing on Windows and Linux/Unix File servers, SharePoint and Exchange Platforms.

 

3. Who were Get Smarts’ creators?

a. Steve Allen

b. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry

c. Buck Henry and Cesar Romero

d. Mel Brooks

 

4. True or False

Unstructured data on average represents 80% of your organization’s data and is multiplying at 30-50% a year.

 

5. What device did “Control” utilize in order to keep information confidential?

a. A tricked-out umbrella

b. A private closet

c. The Cone of Silence

d. Invisible
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Change And The Big Bang Theory

It’s a hectic world out there with technological advances, competitive challenges, and government regulations (just to name a few variables) coming at organizations at breakneck speed. In response, leaders and managers are becoming more worried about failing than they are about learning and improving their organizations’ capabilities. As such, we are finding that even the most forward-thinking organizations are increasingly choosing to hunker down and solidify their positions, as if they can stave off trouble by maintaining the status quo.

The truth is change is coming to a theater near you and soon, but how it comes is entirely up
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October 31, 2014

Squishy Goals Mean Squishy Outcomes

Performance measurements are only as good as your goals.

Goals ► Priorities ► Outcomes ► Initiatives

Do your organizational goals sound something like this: Foster talent by building a culture that maximizes opportunities for growth. Sounds nice, right? But how would you measure that? How would you know when you’ve achieved it? The truth is, it would be next to impossible. Whether you’re creating goals at an organizational level or at an operational level, here are some tips for improving them so that you can demonstrate their achievement.

Describe the outcome.
The trick is to describe the result you hope to achieve rather
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Applying The 80/20 Principle To Portfolio Management

The 80/20 principle posits that 80% of organizational value comes from 20% of your projects. The 80/20 allocation seems to hold true for a lot of things: I know I wear 20% of my clothing 80% of the time, and I use my pots and pans the same way. Nevertheless, the 80/20 principle is a particularly handy concept when thinking about managing the projects in your portfolio.

First, using the 80/20 principle, think about which projects are critical, must-haves, and core to your mission (about 20% of the whole array), and set aside those that are discretionary or not vital.
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August 21, 2014

Indecision—Get Off The Fence!

On an important decision, one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. — Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant as Leader

Indecision rarely leads to anything positive. In my 35 years of experience working with clients, I have seen enough snafus, courtesy of a reluctance or unwillingness to make a decision, to know that any decision would have propelled the organization forward or at least broken the log jam. If
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Decisions, Decisions. Or Maybe Not.

Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile. So said Bertrand Russell, British philosopher, mathematician and political activist. Aneurin Brevin, the Welsh Labor politician put it this way: We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.

Making decisions means risking what is known for what is not. In my line of work, I have seen many organizations mired in keeping the status quo because the bogeyman in the hall is whispering, what if you’re wrong? The irony, of course, is that by not making a decision—right or
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July 10, 2014

Cutting Your Project Portfolio Down to Size

That big project portfolio of yours is your biggest headache. It’s true. If you are like most companies, your portfolio has grown to an unwieldy size, which means you have way too many projects competing for the same resources. Here’s what to do.

First, inventory ALL projects and activities that require any kind of IT resources, making sure to include non-obvious ones like SMEs and user training time. According to Gartner, 60% of IT’s budget is spent on operational, “keep the light on” activities, so it is important that these are included to ensure correct allocation of project resources. Projects
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June 19, 2014

Transparency & Cost Optimization… Bank on it!!

In my last blog I spoke about the four principles that lead to better Cost Optimization. They were Transparency, Flexibility, Simplification and Discipline. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Transparency in more detail.

How many times has IT management staff felt that their business partners don’t appreciate or understand the effort, time and money required to satisfy a business demand? On the other hand, how many times do you think business partners wonder if IT is focusing on the correct enterprise initiatives, or why their requests are not satisfied to their expectation level? The answer? Too many
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May 22, 2014

Risking it All by Resting on Your Laurels

In ancient times, conquering heroes were crowned with wreathes of laurel, giving rise to the idiom to rest on one’s laurels, meaning to bask in the glory of past achievements. When it comes to acts of bravery, one may indeed rest on one’s laurels without fear. However, with respect to implementing change, resting on one’s laurels is a Very Bad Idea. One must guard against the temptation to view the project as over and done. After the fanfare of an effective implementation has faded, the goals of your initiative are at risk unless you have an action-oriented sustainability process
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Reorgs and Crash Diets: What They Have in Common

TransAccel is often asked to help organizations figure out where they should be three to five years from now, and we immediately set about assessing where they are, thinking about strategies, and devising transition plans. But here’s the thing: Very often the client wants to start with a structural reorganization.

Now the truth is if you start with a structural reorganization, it’s like going on a crash diet. Everybody knows the naughty non-foods you can cut out, just like everybody knows which low-performers could be eliminated or how work could be shuffled around to immediate effect. So you lose a
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April 17, 2014

Help Desk Heroes Need Not Apply

Like many of you, I grew up thinking that being a hero was always good. Case in point: In every episode of The Adventures of Superman, the bad guys busily hatched nefarious plots to set loose upon the planet, but ultimately Superman always prevailed. In the IT world, nothing could be further from the truth: Heroes stand in the way of maturing an IT organization! Let me explain using a help desk example:

Despite anyone’s best efforts, IT customers will always have questions or need something, and IT systems will always run into issues. As an IT organization grows, there
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February 20, 2014

Cost Optimization – It’s The Principle Of It…

Groucho Marx once joked “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.” This is great for getting a laugh, but decision making without guiding principles is like a ship’s captain navigating the wind and current without a compass.

The same can be said about an IT organization’s approach to cost optimization. After years of one-off tactical cost cutting, many businesses are facing the challenge of ongoing and continuous cost optimization. For many, this is no longer the exception but the new reality.

The usual approach to cutting costs is the purely tactical. Problem is, when the
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December 5, 2013

Now, Take The Apple, Dearie, And Make A Wish

In 1934 southern California, a successful animator of cartoon shorts embarked on a project to make, for the first time, a feature-length cartoon. The cost to create it was estimated to be $250,000 over two years. But when the story line kept changing, the budget skyrocketed to $1.4 million, and the project timeline nearly doubled.

If you haven’t already guessed it, the animator was Walt Disney and the film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It earned over $7 million in its first run, paving the way for Walt Disney Company to deliver other astonishing firsts.

In terms of project
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October 31, 2013

Increasing IT maturity: Jumping the (very high) Level 2 hurdle

I often describe the Level 2 hurdle as the highest and hardest to jump over. I’ve witnessed many an IT organization trip and fall, ending up with the proverbial skinned knee. The biggest tripping point is also the most common one: IT leaders are too accustomed to managing “noise.”

The inclination is often to do something radical—like a reorg—in a desperate attempt to stop the noise. Can you start with a reorganization? Sure. But this only works for organizations at a very high level of maturity, where processes are well instituted. Likewise, it can also work for organizations at a
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Increasing IT maturity: “You have HOW many Severity 1 problems?”

During a recent call with a prospective client, he informed me that his organization has had 15 Severity 1 problems sitting in a queue for over 90 days. From what I know about this IT organization, and because it tracks its incidents, problems and duration, I would peg it at just over a level 1 IT maturity, where some foundational services are installed but not fully implemented.

Classically, an organization operating at, or just above, a level 1 is focused on “keeping the lights on” activities, as well as “putting out fires.” What’s broken rarely gets fixed because no one
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September 30, 2013

Increasing IT Maturity: Access for everyone, a telltale sign of low maturity

Let me tell you a little story about a company called Acme. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) A financial analyst…let’s call him Bob…worked daily in Acme’s financial accounting system.

Since everyone was always busy, and everyone “grew up” together, access and change controls, and roles and responsibilities were loose at Acme. Bob made a few minor data and calculation changes to the accounting system to make his work easier. But he didn’t document or test his changes. Even worse, he didn’t realize his changes impacted the month-end closing application.

When the time came to close the books, the
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Let’s start from the very beginning

Hey folks! Welcome to the final quarter of 2013 and thanks for reading the first issue of TransAccel’s refreshed blog. I had a whole blog series planned on the different levels of IT maturity that I wanted to lead off with. You can still read the first blog in that series, but I decided at the last minute to lead with something different.

Two weeks ago, my team and I reached out to our network of past and present clients and colleagues with an update on what TransAccel has been up to. We received so many kind responses with great
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With A Little Help From My Friends

In my travels, I try to pick up tidbits to help me be more effective at managing projects. We’ve all seen the various tools, techniques, methodologies, etc. to help us deliver against The Big Three: cost, scope and time—but is that really all there is? The funny thing about projects is that success is declared despite most of the project participants knowing that the outcome was somewhat less than successful. Why is that? You hear things like, “It came in on time, under budget and was executed exactly as documented in the requirements.” So it must have been a
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December 11, 2011

Get heard with visuals: 5 questions to make sure your PowerPoints pass the visual test

Because IT stands for “information technology,” you would think that IT would be Best-in-Class when communicating via PowerPoint, the quintessential information technology communication tool. Wrong. No surprise to all of us who work in IT. We generally stink at PowerPoint. And we really can’t afford to do this badly. Good communication is vital to our success if we want to create understanding about our organization, processes, systems, innovative ideas and change. But, the undeniable truth is, until we can communicate well, we can’t expect others to recognize IT’s value.

Believe it or not, visuals are the most effective way to
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November 15, 2011

Terminate the time guzzler: Inefficient meetings

Are you a big fan of impromptu meetings via Skype, Instant Messaging or other technology? These meetings seem to be laser focused because the meeting originator contacts you for a specific reason and has some targeted questions already at hand. Therefore, your ad hoc meeting has a clear-cut purpose, and resolution and closure is fast and painless.

So, how do you take this paradigm and apply it to the biggest time guzzler in most people’s day—the inefficient meeting?

Here’s how. Every meeting should have an agenda and specific objectives. This information should be communicated to participants well in advance so they
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October 17, 2011

Mark that project APPROVED…

Today, every company is pursuing more projects than it can successfully handle, and that puts your project at risk of not getting the approval it needs to move forward. So, what can you do to make sure that a governance committee review doesn’t leave you and your project on the outside looking-in? Follow these steps to give your project an advantage over other projects in the queue for review.

 

Understand and communicate the business case for your project.
This starts with understanding the business strategy and business drivers that prompted your project in the first place. If you don’t understand what
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October: Conscious Planning

October is probably the most grueling month of the IT planning cycle, given the exorbitant amount of time expended in meetings. Each department—Sales, Marketing, R&D and Manufacturing—will meet with its IT counterpart to plan next year’s projects. These meetings should be dialogue-driven events that result in a shared understanding of anticipated business drivers over the next 12-18 months, current market conditions, emerging trends, and specific strategies to capitalize on opportunities. In preparation for these meetings, it would also be helpful for IT to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) comparing your company to 3 or 4 competitors. Not only will
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September 19, 2011

Toto—I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore: The hard reality that IT is not what it used to be…

How IT has worked forever is coming to a slow or fast end, depending on where you work. If you are paying attention, there are subtle signs of its demise everywhere. For example, gone are the good ole days when an IT professional would spend an entire Sunday fixing the VP’s Blackberry. Now a nice person in India walks the VP through the myriad steps to reboot or reconfigure. Another proof point—IT colleagues are posting new titles on LinkedIn like “Business Strategist” or “Innovation Lead” or “Electronic Design Engineer”…Oh my! Dorothy said it best, “Toto—I’ve a feeling we’re not
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September: Conscious Planning… IT Planning Season Has Begun

Although strategy determines IT’s focus and direction, it’s planning that drives execution. And, despite the obvious importance of planning, very few IT organizations do it, other than to create a list of projects they hope to focus on. That’s not planning—that’s a wish list. We could argue for hours about the myriad reasons IT organizations lack a robust annual planning process, but it all comes down to needing to know how to do it, and having the discipline to do it once you know how.

In an effort to make planning less overwhelming, every month I am going to provide
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July 26, 2011

Rx: Annual IT Health Check

Welcome to TransAccel’s inaugural blog! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to talk to you about what I see as the biggest challenges facing IT and business today. To stimulate my thinking around the new adventure of blogging, I’ve been reflecting on the many years my colleagues and I have strategized, innovated, and just generally cleaned up messes. You have your stories too. This is the place to share them, and we hope you do.

Over the next few months members of my team and I will be writing about:

Where to start? For me it all begins with a good
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