Back to Phase 2

Singapore is back to phase 2 from 8 May to 30 May with the spike in COVID-19 cases. This time, our workforce is more adapt to remote working or work from home (wfh). It is always great to see how well we switch to working anywhere. Elsewhere, we are also seeing spike and result in travel ban from certain countries. How should the management adapt to changing government policies on the pandemic?

Adapt and React

By now, most organisations are resilient to adapt and react to different phases of government responses to COVID-19. The infections can be unpredictable with waves or cluster of infections. Business continuity remains top priority to ensure service level are similar. In some cases, we need to slow down or de prioritise certain tasks or projects.

Self Organising Team

The pandemic have result in an importance of self organising team. Centralised management of team will be obsolete in face of empowerment. As our workforce becomes remote, decision making must be empowered and teams need to be self reliant. Teams become autonomous and accountable to their projects or job scope.

For all old management, it is time to face the change from the pandemic. Management needs to create self organising teams and empowering staffs. On the other hand, workers must play their part to be accountable to their tasks without decentralise management.

Can Troubleshooting Codes be Tested?

Troubleshooting codes is a skillset that is always “taught” in school. There are always test that ask what to spot mistakes in the code syntax. This is often tested school exam, coding certification or interview coding tests. How often are these effective to spot if someone is good at troubleshooting code?

Troubleshooting cannot be Tested

Like all soft skill, it is difficult to test the level of troubleshooting. Tests usually focus on code syntax. This form of test are considered obsolete as compiler will flag syntax errors. Testing on logic flow also do not reveal much on your troubleshooting skills as you can memorise the form of common logic occurrences. This is why you cannot expect a person with lots of certifications as an indicator of good problem solver.

How to Demonstrate your Troubleshooting Skill

This brings the question on how one can identify this skill. There are a few common ways to demonstrate this skill. You can illustrate on how you are able to solve complex problems. Interviewers can also pose scenario based questions and see how the person react. A good problem solver will be calm to analyse and dissect the issues given. Another method is your track record of your career. If you are a problem solver, it is good to show it in your resume.

Scenario based questions are getting popular. Freshies must learn to demonstrate their soft skills. One of a key important skill is troubleshooting codes. Of course, certifications and tests will not reveal such skill. You can only demonstrate it via your track records or confidence to react to such scenario questions.

Casualty of Digital Transformation

SPH to restructure media business into not-for-profit entity.

Read more at TodayOnline

I read with interest at another incumbent that become casualty of digital transformation. I also learn a new word “umbrage”. Once upon a time, this incumbent monopolise the entire media industry in Singapore. Now, we watch with dismay at its demise or struggle. The newer generation will not have any emotional attachment as they have grown up without the need of TV and newspapers.

Will we Learn our Lesson?

Digital disruption is a norm now. Publisher, banks and media are some of industries facing major change in digital transformation. Content can be digitalise and created by anyone anywhere. There is no longer a monopoly to content creation, storage, delivery and to generate revenue. As the content platforms grows nimbly and speedily, these incumbents remains entrenched and defensive to transform. Lessons are often not learnt from history.

Learning as Individuals

The demise of these incumbents are good motivator for individuals to keep learning. We must not trust that our skillsets will remain relevant. It is important to stay on our toes and be aware of the digital trends. Always stay ahead instead of being forced to be eliminated as a “not for profit”. Lastly, do not take umbrage if you are confronted on the truth of being obsolete!

Time, Scope, Cost

Have you ever meet user who like to ask if this or that can be done to change the system? That someone will also like make recommendations to the system. An age old answers to them is always “Time Scope and Cost”. It is usually easy to make suggestions or recommendations without such constraints or understanding of the system. So, how should we deal with it?

The Ignorant User

Some user will always be ignorant and oblivious to the basic of “Time scope and Cost”. For such user, the best way to handle is a detailed SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). With SOP, everything is documented with full transparency. If it is a product constraint, you can also state it clearly. All communication will need to formalise to prevent repetitive explanation with the ignorant user.

The “Want It All” User

There is another set of user who wants every features and yet having non existent scenario or test cases. This is the dreaded scope creep where development team waste valuable time designing for non existent requirments. I often apply Agile and scalable solution to handle such user. Agile allows your solution to scale if the “said” scenario occurs.

In every projects or production support, there will always be users who falls under the above categories. They usually have no understanding of time, scope or cost. You can easily be transparent and show your SOP. Do also consider applying Agile and design your solution to scale easily.

A Startup Mindset in MNC

There is a trend of MNC hiring that requires a working stint or experience in a Startup. One reason is the ability to innovate with minimum cost for a startup. Of course, you will not see such phenomena if you always work in a MNC. So, why are MNC looking for startup capabilities? I will relook my own experiences in Startup and explain quickly why it is such sought after for MNC.

What is a Startup Mindset?

In a MNC, majority of IT are outsourced and dependent on vendors. You give requirements and vendor provide cost and quotations. In contrast, startup have lower cash and can only able to rely on its most valuable skills i.e. human capital! IT solution are often open source and incur zero licensing. The constant need to be creative and innovate with minimum cost will hone the startup mindset in an individual.

Think like a Startup in the MNC

In a startup, you are always hands on for all implementation from business analyst, developer, tester, support and even pre sales. This is the perfect Agile team competencies and each members are capable to handle end to end project implementation. The view is not to rely on vendors and focus to build resource competencies in-house.

It is good to see MNC looking to acquire startup resources or people with such experiences. However, you can also encourage such mindset with a single leader who have such expertise. All I can say, it is not easy to create startup mindset for your team. Do not give up as the rewards are worth it.

IT Supply Chain Dilemma

Designing IT solution in Supply Chain is a constant dilemma. This is because we are trying to map the physical world into a digital plane. There will always be a constant timing and data gap in the system. So, how does we overcome this dilemma?

Managing Expectations

User expectations determines how you can tweak your supply chain system. The bullwhip effect actually applies for the information system as well. It is no uncommon for supply chain system to front facing to end users and vice versa. The dilemma happens when there is a mismatch of the system design with user expectations.

Real Time is Costly

Information flow is actually directly proportional to cost. The technology have provided cheaper real time information to users now. However, the change have not been effected to all existing systems built during the days of 2000s. It may take another five years or so before real time is the become a de facto standard. Meanwhile, it is a fact that all supply chain systems are only Near real time.

Many solutions that promised real time information update is nearly a hoax and dilemma in the year 2020s. This is because the physical world is not yet ready to provide such updates. By managing user expectations, you can deliver supply chain that achieve consumer satisfaction and not burden your IT team.

Why you should insource your IT key competencies?

There is a period of time where organisations outsource IT during the dark ages. Unknowingly, organisations strip away their ability to digitise and transform their key competencies. When the era of digital transformation comes, many struggle to reclaim lost knowledge or rebuild the IT team.

What cause the outsourcing?

IT remains a cost center for many organisations. Thus, they become the selling point of outsourcing and cost saving. Developers are thought to be unnecessary and first to be outsource. Yet, it is weird to see common skills like field IT being retain in-house because they are users facing. As a result, IT are left with coordinators and user facing functions.

Knowledge Drain

Without the implementation skills, IT becomes reliance on vendors to develop and automate the business competencies. Business IT alignment are made on incumbent vendor capabilities. The knowledge drain retard innovation and IT become operational. In many case, systems become outdated.

Digital transformation shifts the trend towards co-sourcing model as organisations brings back in-house capabilities to align business and its core competencies. This phenomenon will stop until we see a repeat of history in outsourcing again. Only capable leaders will do it right and insource your own IT key competencies.

Aptitude to Code?

Once upon a time, our current role do not require a developer background. However, things changed when I took over the team. Being able to code or to learn becomes a requirement. One may ask why is this is key requirement.

You can’t manage what you can’t understand

One of the values in many teams emphasis on the understanding of what you are managing. A good phrase is to lead by example. I find that people are more inclined to respect if you know your stuffs well and even get your hands dirty. Often, we seen great talkers who solution with little view of how complex the implementation will be. On the other hand, we also find ourselves hoodwink if you do not understand the workings of the solution.

Aptitude to Code

It is hard to evaluate who have the aptitude to code. Traditionally, computer science students have the most advantages in coding. You can say that this is the safest choice when hiring. We have seen a recent increase of non comp science students who want to enter the world of coding. The question is how to show you have the aptitude.

It is good to see many switch to coding or IT arena. Roles are also favoring people with coding background. For those who wants to switch to these roles, it is more than taking a course on it. You must present your aptitude towards coding and show deep interest in the world of IT.

Why RPA is Useless?

There are too many clicks for this software feature. You could use RPA.

A business user

RPA (Robotics Process Automation) have been steadily gaining popularity recently. Supposedly, it become a quick fix for underlying issues like too many clicks. In contrast, I find that this is a big step back from many improvements such as BPR (Business Process Re-engineering), UI/UX and Rules Automation.

RPA for the Wrong Reason
  • Too many clicks spoil the system feature.
  • Developers creates many linking UI for relational data.
  • The product feature cannot be changed.
  • The user wants to use Excel for their data inputs.
What should have been Done
  • Change of business process to streamline data updates.
  • Redesign of UI/UX or usage of Chatbots
  • Consider usage of NoSQL database for complex business scenarios.
  • Evaluate products with support of API and customised plugins
  • If users insist comparing data inputs with Excel as data inputs, it is time for some serious change management!

The repackage of scripting and automated testing in the guise of RPA is truly a marketing genius! It is no wonder that many have fallen to the this gimmick. It is worth to considering fundamental concepts to solve root cause instead of using RPA to automate the issue.

Why should you use Backlog?

Do you have a list of backlogs or a product backlog for your Agile project? In traditional waterfall project, you will find many many lists like issue logs, parking lots, features list or even wishlist. A project manager is literally a full time administrator for maintaining these lists. Oh yes, an Agile project do not have a project manager!

The Pros of a Product Backlog

A product backlog is a single source which all members refer to. It can hold your features, issues, wishlist or any tasks that is required to achieve your agile outcome. You can also breakdown any items from product backlog. It is usually arranged such that higher priority items are on the top of the list. You do not need to keep multiple types of lists and thus reduce a lot of “admin” task.

Improvised your Product Backlog for Waterfall

A true Agile project seldom exists in many large organisations. Thus, we often run a waterfall agile type of project. You can still streamline all your listings into a single product backlog. All you need to do is tweak a column for different point of view. Of course, the first step is to merge all the various lists into a single one. Do manage your stakeholders views carefully for this “simple” change.

Agile have many good artifacts that aim for speed and low maintenance with maximum outcome. Product backlog is one that you can consider to implement in your existing waterfall or hybrid project. We should acknowledge that the results outweigh the “efforts” put in creating nice lists.