Saturday, December 31, 2016

Indian Military Hospitals - Not your dad’s Army hospital

One of the most remarkable benefits available to Indian defense force personnel and their families is access to universal healthcare via Military hospital system. Growing up as an Air Force officer’s son, I had on occasion visited the local clinics “MI rooms” and Military Hospitals (MH). The service personnel gamely accepted the few standardized services and preventative medication provided as a part of the system. Running jokes included the use of paracetamol for all ailments, and my earliest memory is the distinct odor of tincture of iodine that would permeate most of the clinics and MH’s. After entering adulthood, I was no longer eligible for the family medical benefits. The MH system faded from memory as I migrated to live in Europe, Canada and the US.
During the couple of decades since, I had an opportunity to visit and observe service provided by hospitals and clinics in the US, UK, Switzerland and Canada; sometimes for self, for my (then) pregnant wife and periodically after our son was born.

Immage source:

I began to appreciate the clinical efficiency (pun intended) with which the hospitals and clinics operated. There again, the “clinical efficiency,” with a focus on operational excellence and lowering costs comes with a rather impersonal service. Most doctors don’t spend more than 10-15 minutes with patients. It isn’t because they don’t want to but because the “process of diagnosis” is designed to maximize their valuable skills and time. Most of the screening and pre-diagnosis is done by nursing assistants and nurses before one gets to meet the doctor. The western medical system is expensive, and assumes one has good insurance coverage paid by an employer or self, and one has the means to cover the co-pay balance.
During the time I had moved west, the medical system in India had begun marching ahead. The military Hospital system I had experienced in my childhood had also transformed. As an NRI who has seen the best of global primary medical care, I am not easily impressed. However, after spending a few days visiting my dad, who was admitted to the Command Hospital in Bangalore, I came away with a renewed appreciation for the men and women in uniform, serving fellow servicemen and retired veterans.
In his late seventies, my dad is encountering old age and the myriad health afflictions which follow. He has been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, and during his regular check-up, the medical oncologist noticed some “slowness” in his movements and referred him to a neurologist. The Neurologist, Group Captain G (name omitted) whom we met for the checkup showed an inordinate patience in examining and trying to understand Dad’s history, and recommended an MRI. Later, I googled Dr. G’s profile and came away suitably impressed by his education and training – MD, MRCP, FRCS etc – and his experience in the field and consulting with top medical institutions.
In the span of over four days my dad was admitted at the hospital for checkups and examination and diagnosis. I had an opportunity to walk around the sprawling campus. Located adjacent to the busy old Airport road, the leafy campus drowns out the din of the city traffic and noise. Most buildings retain an “old world” feel of military barracks and offices. Cafeteria and canteens for visitors and kiosks for coffee and tea are located around campus.
Just like Dr. G’s courtesy and service mindset, I was equally impressed by the professionalism of the uniformed paramedics, nurses and ward attendants. Their training and knowledge gained from observing a variety of patients comes through, even in the smallest interactions with patients. Thanks to funding by the Ministry of Defense, these fine men and women have access to world class medical techniques, training and equipment.
With a large concentration of service personnel and retirees, the facilities and infrastructure at the Command Hospital are really stretched thin. Each department – including neurology, oncology, urology etc – is overflowing with patients. To manage the inflow and demand, the management has designated “receptions” at each building. While the token system and endless wait for an appointment to meet a specialist may feel overwhelming, there is a method in the madness. The system is designed to optimize the demand and (limited) supply. The modernization of medical practice at the command hospital is really evident in the people and equipment.
Many of my fellow NRIs, and even many Indians perpetually lament over the crumbling infrastructure and broken system. There is perhaps a grain of truth to it. However, when one occasionally encounters hidden gems, like my encounter at Command Hospital, one is pleasantly surprised.

Command Hospital Bangalore

Also check out my blogs on "Aging and caregiving in India - 2017-18"

Recent Q&A on EA: What's the biggest challenge in creating an agile enterprise architecture?

My response to a recent query on Quora:

What's the biggest challenge in creating an agile enterprise architecture?

Mohan Babu K
Mohan Babu K, Enterprise Architect for a global 1000 company.

Let us start with a couple of definitions:
“Agile generally relates to method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans: Contrasted with waterfall.” Oxford Dictionaries
“Enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions.” Gartner IT Glossary
Can EA be realized in an agile manner? Yes. Back to the original question “challenge in creating an agile enterprise architecture? It is not very clear, but I will assume the question pertains to “go about,” which one can do:
  • By using agile techniques to realizing some of the key aspects of EA.
  • By taking a consulting-focused approach to deliver on promises.
It should be noted that realizing Enterprise Architecture, or realizing outcome of an enterprise strategy may not always be done in an Agile manner.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why IT matters to Mr. Trump; and why he matters to the business of IT

Global businesses are tightly interwoven with governments and social policies; more so the business of IT sourcing and offshoring IT Services. Therefore, it is not surprising that Business leaders across a wide spectrum of industries are trying to read the tea-leaves and speculate on the continual stream of viewpoints emerging from tweets and media interviews of President elect Mr. Donald Trump. 
Mr. Trump’s scheduled meeting with Tech leaders on 14th December (New York Times) may or may not provide clarity to Information Technology (IT) executives and business leaders. A few facts about the global IT and global software services industry:
  • Software services industry is extremely globalized. Large companies employ teams of software professionals from across the globe, with a large percentage from India: the IT industry collectively employs over 2.5 million people in India (Wikipedia)
  • Indian services companies including TCS, Infosys, and Wipro employ over 150,000 people each. American and multinational service firms like IBM, Accenture, Deloitte and others employ over 100,000+ people (each) in India.
  • In addition, software companies like Google, Microsoft, SAP, Adobe and others employ tens of thousands of people. Many American and multinational firms have also established their captive development centers, directly employing Indians for their “shared services” and IT business units.
  • Nearly 50% of the software services business is focused on serving North American clients. Most Fortune 500 and other mid-size and small organizations across industry segments depend on these software service companies for their IT development and support needs.
  • Work Visas (e.g. H1-B), company transfers (L1) and visas for routine meetings (e.g. B1 visas) are essential to the operation of the business model.
Mr. Trump’s viewpoints on outsourcing and “Make America Great Again” have been emphasized over and over. (Trump launches Twitter blast about outsourcing of jobs -
Does this mean a rollback of offshoring IT?
What this means, and how it will be administered is anybody’s guess. Rolling back outsourcing that has been happening for over 15-20 years, even if feasible, would be extremely expensive. Companies have been trying to minimize dependence on offshoring by experimenting with insourcing and nearshoring, but mass insourcing by larger organizations would significantly impact their bottomline. Assuming there is no attempt at a widespread rollback by corporate America, the industry is still bracing for a slowdown, which tech executives are already hinting at (Infosys CEO says Trump election may weigh on margins - Reuters)
IT companies have successfully managed through challenges in the past decades, including the downturn following Y2K and the first bust, and the global slowdown during the past decade. One of the prime reasons for the emergence of offshore outsourcing was the lack of local talent. Technology companies need to take a lead in addressing this challenge:
  • Increased hiring and training of local graduates. Software firms are beginning to make announcements on local hiring (example: IBM promises to hire Americans ahead of Trump meeting - news). The announcements should be followed by actionable change. For instance, Compuware, an American technology firm - that I worked for - had a successful practice of hiring graduates (mostly non-STEM majors). These graduates would be sent to a six-week intensive programming and systems admiration "bootcamp," before being paired to work with senior consultants and software engineers.
  • Increasing corporate scholarships to encourage STEM education, especially to motivate women and minorities to take on IT careers. (Ref : my earlier post on STEM education: need to catch them young)
  • Accelerating the hiring and training of qualified veterans who can be deployed on application development, system administration and technology support projects.
Tech sector continues to explore innovative uses of AI, robotics and machine learning in efforts to increase automation and productivity. Software companies are also trying to minimize the need for cross border travel by increased adoption of hi-definition video conferencing and tools for remote collaboration. If successful, these moves will improve productivity and business margins, but may not increase the number of jobs. Regardless of how all this plays out, status quo is not an option. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Q&A: Is there a big politics involved in selecting Indians as CEOs of top software companies?

Considering the number of software engineers in India, board members of top software companies want to play with the psychology of young Indian software engineers.

My response:

  • Is there politics/nepotism/cronyism in the corporate world? Sure!
  • Is there politics involved in selecting CEOs? Sure there is.
  • Is there a glass-ceiling in Corporate America? Heck Yeah!
Yes there is politics/nepotism/cronyism in corporate world, just like there is in rest of the society.
Now that we have addressed the basics, let us get to the corporate world. Corporate leaders, Board of directors and Shareholders have one primary goal: maximize Shareholder value - Wikipedia Most B-School students and graduates will recognize this mantra drilled into their minds from day-one.
What does this mean? While corporate leaders might accept some “politics,” cream does rise to the top. Otherwise the enterprise will fail .. and shareholders will loose value!
Why do you think the two leading software companies - Google and Microsoft - selected “Indians” as their CEOs?! Because they happened to be the best!
Image: Google / Bing search
And speaking of politics, After completing a round-robin by offering CEO position to its founders, Infosys hired an outsider, a global tech-executive as its CEO. … he just happened to be “Indian” too
Vishal Sikka (Googled image)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Recent Q&A on EA: What is Enterprise Architecture and why do we do it?

Let us start with Wikipedia, even though it is not the most authoritative source on the topic of Enterprise architecture (EA)

"a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes."

On the second part of your question, why do we do it? The short answer: Successful Enterprise Architectures bring together the Business, Information, Data, Application and Technology (BiDAT) dimensions of an enterprise. When practiced successfully, EA can enable strategy realization by bringing in new capabilities, and enhance existing capabilities.

Longer answer to the question would require one to refer to a book: Among the best books I have read on the topic is “Enterprise Architecture As Strategy”My review on Amazon

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Recent Q&A on Enterprise Architecture

Here are my recent responses to questions on Enterprise Architecture asked by fellow EA's on Quora. Do keep the questions coming. I will try and respond here or on Quora or Linkedin Pulse

Question: When does enterprise architecture support TOGAF?

The question is unclear and the assumption is incorrect. Rather than Enterprise Architecture supporting TOGAF, it is the other way around. Simply put, TOGAF®is a framework, with tools and techniques that support and enable  an Enterprise Architecture. Also check out TOGAF®, an Open Group standardthat describes how:
“The TOGAF framework enables organizations to effectively address critical business needs by:
  • Ensuring that everyone speaks the same language
  • Avoiding lock-in to proprietary solutions by standardizing on open methods for Enterprise Architecture
  • Saving time and money, and utilize resources more effectively
  • Achieving demonstrable ROI”

Question: What should we look for in an enterprise architect?

Good question. What you will look for in an Enterprise Architect depends on your requirements and perspectives. A few examples include the following perspectives:
  • EA as a transformation leader - If your organization is embarking on a strategic transformation, you should be looking for an EA with a transformation background
  • Size of organization - Depending on the size of your organization, you may be looking for someone with a global or domain focused background. In global organizations, an EA is expected to take the “big picture” view
  • EA focused on a BIDAT specific focus - Again, depending on your requirement, you may also be looking for an EA focused on Business, Information Systems, Data, Application or Technology specific background.
  • EA in a consulting firm - Technology consulting firms hire people with EA background to help in pre-sales and in customer engagements.
Also check out my blog on the topic from a while ago : Musing on accidental Enterprise Architects and Enterprise Solutions Architect

Ping back with your requirement and I will be able to guide you better

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Long march towards Digitization and cashless society in India

It has been a little over three weeks since the Indian government took the dramatic step of demonetizing large denomination currency notes – of Rupees 500 and 1000. A lot has been written and debated about the short and long term impact of the Government’s bold move on the lives of a billion Indians.
As an Enterprise Architect of Indian origin, I have been watching the rollout with more than casual interest. There are lessons in the ongoing Indian digitization experiment that technologists around the world can learn from.
The digital payment market in India is at a nascent stage, but nevertheless has a number of domestic and global players, each with millions of users. The market is led by players like PayTM, MobiKwik , Ola Money, Citrus Pay, PayUMoney, ICICI Pockets, Citi Masterpass among others. These Digital payment providers have begun to prepare for wider adoption for the wave following digitization.
The media and technology analysts are also adding a sense of excitement, with articles that proclaim how “India’s Cash Ban Is the Best Thing to Happen to Digital Payments” In this article, the founder of PayTm Vijay Shekhar is quoted saying
“Those fishmongers, vegetable vendors and rickshaw drivers count among the thousands who’ve signed onto India’s largest digital payments service since Prime Minister Narendra Modi triggered a nationwide cash crunch when he scrapped the country’s two largest note denominations.” ( link)
Banks and financial institutions are also looking beyond the short term roadbumps to the long-term opportunities ahead. The front-office bankers gamely took on the challenge of dealing with teeming masses waiting in lines to convert their defunct currency notes. However, banking executives and technologists are already looking ahead. For instance, ICICI, a leading private bank sent a detailed email informing customers of the “state-of-the-art digital channels of internet, mobile banking, Pockets digital wallet and cards,” highlighting services that customers can access via internet and mobile platforms
The enthusiasm among the bankers and digital payment providers and startups is contagious indeed. It is very likely that some of the new, innovative payment modes will lead to evolution in day-to-day financial transactions. The opportunity hinges on leveraging ubiquitous mobile phones in a creative, intuitive and secure manner.
I wonder if it’s too early proclaim advent of the cashless-society in India?
Designing for trust in a culture with low trust of public institutions is a challenge to be addressed. Same goes for the ability to scale payment gateways across a diverse demographic. Many of those taking to eWallets and online bill payment are already in the formal banking system: they happen to be urbane, tech-savvy middle-class professionals who were sitting on the fence when it came to digital wallets. Service providers and small-businesses catering to this clientele are grudgingly following suit. Wider adoption, however, will depend on a transformation at the bottom of the pyramid. A few examples of the millions of people who habitually transact in cash in India:
  • The semiliterate, blue-collar workers in unorganized sectors working in small scale industries, factories and other jobs are generally unbanked
  • Workers in informal sectors in urban India – maids, household workers, drivers, security guards, building construction workers and others drawing minimum wage
  • Hawkers, vendors, small-shops, tea-stalls and roadside eateries in street corners across cities and villages
  • Rural India is largely agrarian, and agricultural income earned in India is exempt from tax. Cash is the king in this sector and farmers, growers and landlords have little incentive in going cashless (link: free incomes final.pdf )
Most of the folks in these sectors are habits of creature, and love nothing more than counting cold-hard cash after a day’s labor. Weaning them away from the culture of cash to a world where their earnings remain in virtual world in digital wallets they don’t comprehend may take some creative persuading and goading.
Another challenge that needs to be addressed is the issue of merchant-fees charged by Digital payment providers. Businesses and merchants, especially those serving customers at the bottom of the pyramid are going to be loath to shell out a fee, however small. This is not a trivial problem. Even credit card networks with American Express, Visa and Mastercard in mature markets like the US and Europe continue to struggle in courting small businesses that are hesitant to pay the 2-3% transaction fee for Point of Sale transactions. Even there, cash is sometimes the king.
Bottomline: We are talking about a cultural transformation that needs to accompany technology adoption. Those of us who have spent years in technology transformations realize that success of technology innovations hinges on user buy-in at the last mile.