SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, TJ Randall

Related Topics: SDN Journal

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Scenario Planning for First-Line Managers

What is scenario planning?

A common meme in the strategic planning world is that there is no one pre-determined future. The objective in strategic planning is not to forecast a single outcome but rather to identify a number of possible outcomes. Preparedness comes in having thought through multiple possible end states, and agility comes from the ability to quickly identify which of those end states is coming to fruition and then acting accordingly. The job of the manager is to be both prepared and agile.

That said, strategy is more typically treated as a dark art that is practiced by a group of business development people in an ivory tower tucked into the corner of the company. No one really explains strategy to the managers and individuals responsible for the day-to-day operation of the company.

What is scenario planning?

At its most basic, scenario planning is the admission that no one can predict the future. The best that most of us can do is limit the future to a small set of likely futures. Sure, we can weight those futures, which allows us to rank them in order of likelihood to occur. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we cannot guarantee that any one of them will emerge.

Scenario planning essentially takes these situations and asks planners to consider the various factors at play, using them to determine a small set of future scenarios. The goal of scenario planning is not to specify every possible outcome but rather to focus on the most likely. If you are doing scenario planning, you ought to be targeting 2-4 possible scenarios. Anything more than that ends up being a bit too much to practically handle.

Once you have the scenarios identified, you can plan out what you would do in each scenario. If, for example, budgets are tight and headcount is frozen, how will you handle staffing in the second half of the year? What will you do with your commitments to the roadmap? How will you adjust your resource allocations?

The key to effective scenario planning

There is nothing particularly magical about scenario planning. Most people tend to think through scenarios naturally, so in many ways, the strategic change here is more about documenting what you are already thinking. That said, the vast majority of people who actively engage in scenario planning actually miss the most important part.

Scenario planning is not effective because of the scenarios; it is effective because of the planning that goes into determining which of those scenarios is active.

Put slightly differently, just knowing what the possible outcomes are is meaningless unless you use that information to change how you behave. If, for instance, the scenario hinges on hitting development milestones on an aggressive architectural project, identifying early whether you are on track is the real key.

This means that the key to effective scenario planning has less to do with the scenarios than it does with the leading metrics that let you determine what path you are on.

Scenario planning is an ongoing task

The other major mistake that managers make when it comes to scenario planning is that they spend all this time up front completing the planning, but they never revisit it while the work is actually in progress. If you do scenario planning well, you will identify a set of leading and lagging indicators that indicate which scenario you are in. But having those indicators documented doesn’t mean that you are actively tracking them.

As a manager, you need to be looking at these metrics frequently enough that changes in the indicators allow you time to enact one of your scenarios. For first-line managers, this aspect of strategic planning is almost universally ignored. Either you lack appropriate early indicators, or you just refuse to monitor them. Whatever the case, you end up ignoring the tracking aspects, which means you have all this good scenario planning without a means to activate differences in execution.

Some examples

For first-line managers, scenarios will tend to hinge on one of two things: budget and progress. Macro-level things like sales progress or market dynamics tend to be somewhat shielded from first-line managers. This is partially why young managers don’t engage in meaningful scenario planning. But they should.

As a first-line manager, you are likely responsible for allocating resources to projects. In a typical planning cycle, you likely allocate resources that still need to be hired (frequently called TBHs or To-be-hired). You have committed to a set of deliverables knowing that you are dependent on new reqs materializing in time to get people hired, on board, and useful.

What are the earliest indicators you ought to be looking at?

If your company is light on revenue in Q1 or Q2, that frequently indicates a slowing of hiring in the back half of the year. You ought to be having discussions early on as your company reports revenue. If you are surprised that hiring stops after having a couple of light quarters, the fault is really no one’s but your own. The tendency here is to assume everything is fine until you are told that the hiring spigots have been turned off. While this is defensible, it doesn’t mean that you should be caught unaware. By making a couple of staffing decisions up front, you can put yourself in the best position to staff the most critical projects, leaving the risk exposure to things lower in the priority queue. This is effective management.

The other common scenario is around execution against a large project. Engineers will tend to outline major milestones in a project. However, they also tend to believe that you can make up additional work later in the cycle (similar to writing a term paper the night before it is due). Missing early milestones, though, will put pressure on the back end of the schedule. This might compress things like testing, and it can leave resources stranded in a wait state. Identifying gaps in progress early on, you can proactively slot ready-to-go efforts and then more heavily staff the back end. Being caught unaware a few days before the project is due leaves you no time to adjust.

The bottom line

Almost every New Product Introduction process includes some placeholder slots to talk about risk. Everyone knows enough to put mitigation plans in these slots. But those mitigation plans are drafted and then ignored by the vast majority of managers. To be an effective manager, you really need to draft the mitigation plans, identify the early indicators so you know what scenario is actually live, and then actively monitor conditions so you can make adjustments as soon as possible. Rather than succumb to the all-too-common strategy of waiting and hoping that things will improve, you ought to be tracking these early indicators regularly. If you do not look at these stats at your weekly staff meeting, chances are that you are subscribing to the hope and pray method of leadership. If this is the case, you might as well go buy a rabbit’s foot as a backup plan.

[Today’s fun fact: A black hole emits a sound in the tone of B flat. I believe U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday is also in B flat, which means you should freak out every time you hear it lest you be nearer the end of the world than you imagined.]

The post Scenario planning for first-line managers appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
HyperConvergence came to market with the objective of being simple, flexible and to help drive down operating expenses. It reduced the footprint by bundling the compute/storage/network into one box. This brought a new set of challenges as the HyperConverged vendors are very focused on their own proprietary building blocks. If you want to scale in a certain way, let's say you identified a need for more storage and want to add a device that is not sold by the HyperConverged vendor, forget about it...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Sanjeev Sharma Joins November 11-13, 2018 @DevOpsSummit at @CloudEXPO New York Faculty. Sanjeev Sharma is an internationally known DevOps and Cloud Transformation thought leader, technology executive, and author. Sanjeev's industry experience includes tenures as CTO, Technical Sales leader, and Cloud Architect leader. As an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Sanjeev is recognized at the highest levels of IBM's core of technical leaders.
As Cybric's Chief Technology Officer, Mike D. Kail is responsible for the strategic vision and technical direction of the platform. Prior to founding Cybric, Mike was Yahoo's CIO and SVP of Infrastructure, where he led the IT and Data Center functions for the company. He has more than 24 years of IT Operations experience with a focus on highly-scalable architectures.
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Dez Blanchfield joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Dez is a strategic leader in business and digital transformation with 25 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries developing strategies and implementing business initiatives. He has a breadth of expertise spanning technologies such as cloud computing, big data and analytics, cognitive computing, m...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, added the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor analytic...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
In a world where the internet rules all, where 94% of business buyers conduct online research, and where e-commerce sales are poised to fall between $427 billion and $443 billion by the end of this year, we think it's safe to say that your website is a vital part of your business strategy. Whether you're a B2B company, a local business, or an e-commerce site, digital presence is key to maintain in your drive towards success. Digital Performance will take priority in 2018 for the following reason...
I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager - it's starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
What's the role of an IT self-service portal when you get to continuous delivery and Infrastructure as Code? This general session showed how to create the continuous delivery culture and eight accelerators for leading the change. Don Demcsak is a DevOps and Cloud Native Modernization Principal for Dell EMC based out of New Jersey. He is a former, long time, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in building and architecting Application Delivery Pipelines for hybrid legacy, and cloud ...