Hear deep insights from the top-awarding-winning Stacey Cerniuk, Founder and CEO of Annex Consulting Group, Entrepreneur, Innovating Executive, Business & Technology Authority. Ask yourself these questions and how do your experiences stack up against Stacey’s? Stacey shares top success attributes for professionals working as: CEOs, leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, HR managers, recent graduates, experienced professionals (early, mid, and senior levels), developers, project managers, business analysts, management consultants, and infrastructure professionals. How do your experiences compare with Stacey’s based upon his insights from achieving a 97% customer satisfaction rating?
Stacey discusses labour market and job trends, top opportunities and challenges, and project lessons. How are these areas impacting you? He provides the benefits of involvement with PMI, CIPS (professional associations), advisory roles, and non-profits. What are your views on volunteering and what is the value?
Stacey discusses why computing professionals and executives should be attending the World CIO Forum. Why would you agree?
Should computing be a recognized profession? Stacey provides his views and on questions he would ask in an interview.
Enjoy, Stephen Ibaraki
Stacey Cerniuk is the founder, President and CEO of Annex Consulting Group. Stacey has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computing Science from Simon Fraser University and 23 years of IT industry experience as a business analyst, project manager, management consultant and entrepreneur. He was a Forty Under Forty winner recognizing the top business people in British Columbia under the age of 40.
Stacey is actively involved in a number of IT industry associations and academic programs:
Stacey's company, Annex Consulting Group, is an IT consulting and recruitment company specializing in applications development, project management, network infrastructure, business analysis and management consulting services. Annex staffs its projects from the Annex Alliance, a membership of 8000 independent IT and business consultants in BC. Annex has completed 1,200 IT projects for 250 different clients since 1998 with an industry-leading 97% customer satisfaction rating.
Under Stacey's leadership, Annex has been recognized with many awards:
Away from the office, Stacey has coached a boy's select soccer team for the last ten years. He also enjoys reading, exercising and goal setting.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
:00:54: Stacey, can you profile your history prior to your current role and three valuable leadership lessons you wish to share from these roles? "....As an HR manager:....Use the 80:20 principle to look at your business and really concentrate on the key 20% in your organization....Being an entrepreneur:....Do what I did when I started and that is to join a Mastermind forum of fellow CEOs....My third leadership lesson is more around setting goals:....Define what success means to you, define your goals (make sure your write them down), then create an action plan for accomplishing them...."
:09:07: Can you profile Annex? "....We're an IT consultant and recruitment company and we serve the Pacific Northwest region of North America....What I'm very proud of is across all of the projects that Annex has done since 1998, we have a 97% customer satisfaction rating which we believe to be the highest in the industry...."
:11:50: I know you have over 8000 IT and business consultants now. What are your objectives this year, in two years and in five years? "....We're happy to see the back end of 2009 and 2010, so our objective this year is significant growth as we emerge from the downturn....Two years down the road....more geographic expansion in Western Canada and Westcoast US....Five years from now, more geographic expansion either organically or through acquisition and then making sure that we are adjusting with the market in terms of what our customers are expecting...."
:13:56: What about your long term exit strategy or do you have one? "....Everybody has that option to change careers or finish working. More interesting exit strategies for me are to have Annex acquired by a bigger company as part of its growth strategy.....We could end up grooming someone new to run the business, like an internal manager where I may stay on at a Chair level or leave the business (have someone take it over). Or perhaps the option where the employees decide to take it on themselves...."
:15:10: What five attributes make for a successful developer? "....Solid technical skills and aptitude at what they do....Lifelong learning....Problem-solving (which also includes creativity)....Attention to detail....Strong communicator...."
:17:18: What five attributes make for a successful project manager? "....Communication (verbal, written, facilitation, listening)....Leadership skills....Experience....Planning skills....A combination of problem-solving and decision-making...."
:20:28: What attributes make for a successful business analyst? "....There will be some overlap here....Verbal and written communication....Interviewing skills....Analytical thinking....Interpersonal skills are key....Industry knowledge....Attitude (get things done)...."
:22:18: What attributes make for a successful management consultant? "....Communication for sure....Being that big-picture thinker....Being strategic in nature....Leadership skills....Deep business experience...."
:23:16: What five attributes make for a successful infrastructure professional? "....Strong technical aptitude in those networking and infrastructure technologies....Lifelong learning becomes key....Problem-solving....Detail oriented....Integrity...."
:24:27: Can you provide attributes for success for other roles in computing based upon your experiences at Annex? "....I think there are some common themes around what attributes are key for success: Communication skills....Technical aptitude in the relevant technology areas....Lifelong learning....Interpersonal skills to build relationships and strong emotional intelligence, being compatible....Your hard skills will get you your first contract with the client, but it's really the soft skills that will get that person repeat business...."
:26:03: In your current role, what are your top challenges and top opportunities? "....Top challenges: The availability of talented people to do project work....To raise awareness of our services and to do marketing on a tight budget....Managing growth....Opportunities: For Annex we have great opportunity for expanding to new geographic markets....Some of the new lines of businesses that we're working on we really see a number of areas in the market that are being underserved. I recommend people read the book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne...."
:30:00: Can you forecast job trends this year and next? "....There's an industry watchdog in Canada called Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and they monitor the Canadian IT industry. They've recently come out with a labour market report and they are predicting that here in Canada, Canadian employers are going to need to hire an additional 106,000 ICT workers for information and technology workers between 2011 and 2016...."
:32:01: Sometimes when people hear the stats about a labour shortage, they think about the overall field. But really it's a skills shortage in specific areas, isn't it? "....It can be both labour and skills. 106,000 people for sure is a labour shortage in IT, but within that 106,000 – if we slice and dice that down and take a look at what are some of the key fields, there will definitely be some key areas that will be more in demand than others. What is in demand will change over time...."
:33:17: For recent graduates, what areas should they focus on? "....They definitely need to focus on technical competency in the areas that interest them the most....People need to be adaptable and open to change and to build some of those general skills like soft skills that will help them regardless of what career they choose...."
:35:17: For experienced IT professionals, what areas should they focus on from a career and job standpoint? "....I think younger workers are going to get management opportunities earlier than the baby boomers did. The experienced IT professionals who may be at intermediate levels or maybe even senior levels, they may want to focus as well on general management skills to progress their careers, because I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities in leadership as these more senior people leave industry. So general management skills like leadership, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution....even industry specialization...."
:36:35: What are your current projects and what one lesson can you share from each of your major projects? "....We have hundreds but I will try to grab a couple here. One is a software development team project - we're doing a web-based registration system....The lesson I can share is that it's important to have a dedicated project manager on the team....Project number two is more a series of engagements that we are doing for a large organization, a multi-billion dollar organization....I want to remind people, it may seem obvious to some but change management is key and don’t forget about it in large scale technology projects...."
:39:18: Why would you recommend people get involved with Project Management Institute (PMI)? "....PMI is the largest and most recognized project management association in the world. They also manage the PMP certification....PIMBOK, the project management body of knowledge, is the most widely used PM practices in the world so it's good exposure to that guideline....For me personally all that is great stuff, but I like being involved in these associations because there's a networking component with like-minded peers where you can share your experiences and collaborate and raise your personal profile and there are educational benefits as well...."
:40:59: Why would you recommend people get involved with Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)? "....For me the big benefit and what I like about being involved with CIPS is the networking with peers and seeing others in the industry and sharing experiences. There's always an educational and learning component to associations. I am not only involved with CIPS as a member, but I was on the Board for many years and I also got involved to give back to the local IT community...."
:42:05: What are the benefits of some of the advisory roles you perform? "....A lot of it [the benefits] is around giving back to the industry that's been so good to me....Advisory Council at UBC for their Certificate and Project Management Progam: I get to help shape Project Management and project managers of the future, how the training is done and how they are being educated, based on my experience....Advisor for UBC Certificate and Business Analysis. I get to be involved to ensure that the new program at UBC conforms to industry standards in Business Analysis....Advisor to small businesses because I feel that I can, based on my experiences, accelerate entrepreneurs in their businesses....Career advisor to a number of computing students at local universities, colleges. It gives me pleasure to be involved and to help shape someone's life and hopefully add value to them....."
:44:26: You are a mentor in an organization called S.U.C.C.E.S.S.; can you tell us what that involves? "....S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is a not-for-profit organization which has a whole variety of services. One area I'm involved in is helping new immigrants adapt to life in Canada....S.U.C.C.E.S.S. knows that my expertise is in technology so what they often do is to assign me new Canadians who have technology backgrounds and then I can help to mentor them and get them ‘up to speed’ on what Canadian companies are looking for...."
:45:42: Please make some predictions from a technological standpoint about where things are going in the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare? "....My expertise is around IT consulting so I will try to make predictions around that area....The supply shortage of IT professionals in Canada will continue the future and more likely than not it's going to get worse....The consulting industry is going to continue to flourish....Small business and particularly this idea of freelance consulting is not just a trend but it's an economic powerhouse in our country and it drives the economy and jobs...."
:49:09: Why should IT executives attend the IFIP World CIO Forum or WCF [Editor=s note: For more information go to: www.worldcioforum.com; Call for papers; WCF news in the IFIP Newsletter]. "....There are organizations for CIOs in various countries, for example in Canada we have CIOCAN, but it's rare to have a world CIO conference....This is a great way to increase collaboration between IT leaders....There's an education and learning component to hearing the speakers and understanding what others are doing in other countries....It's an opportunity to network and raise your personal profile...."
:50:29: What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council] "....We as an industry still have some work to do to get to that point, but we are definitely making progress....Outside of healthcare, businesses in general depend on technology every day....If we're so reliant on that technology then we are also relying on the competency and the professionalism of the people who create and manage that technology. That’s why we need a recognized governing body and certification with a Code of Ethics for the body of knowledge....IP3 is taking a leadership role to foster professionalism in the IT industry worldwide...."
:53:51: If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers? "....In order to get to know you better can you share some of your life goals and what’s on your bucket list?....What five people (living or not) would you invite for dinner?....What three books would you recommend?...."
These questions came up in another forum based on the interview and here are Stacey's responses:
1. "How should the management approach be adapted for differing types of IT projects, e.g. infrastructure, COTS implementation, and custom development”
The project management approach for differing types of IT projects may change. For example, a COTS implementation project may take longer than an infrastructure project. There may be more frequent communication or progress reporting on shorter engagements. A COTS implementation or large custom software development project is more likely to have a Steering Committee governance process than an infrastructure project, unless the infrastructure project is very large at an enterprise level such as the roll-out of new PCs, an operating system upgrade, an e-mail migration, etc.
2. "What are the top three impediments to achieving maximum return on IT investment, and what would you recommend to address them?"
I pulled in a colleague, Joel Chamaschuk, who ran IT for a provincial crown corporation to assist in answering this question.
Unclear understanding of total cost of ownership (TCO) – even if one-time costs are projected correctly, on-going costs to maintain technical solutions are often underestimated or misunderstood at the inception of the project. On-going soft costs (e.g. staff time) are rarely considered or measured.
Inadequate Business Process Re-engineering – “IT investment” is really about generating business value. For more complex initiatives, maximum value can only be attained by reconsidering how the business operates (processes, procedures, roles, etc.). Whereas this ought to be done up front and as part of the project it is often done at the end of the project and not very well, resulting in additional customization costs, missed timelines and processes that are not streamlined.
Unclear outcomes and objectives (business alignment) – “IT projects” often lack enough business sponsorship and engagement. Without a clear vision for what the project is intended to achieve and how it can be measured, expectations are difficult to manage and solutions may not be aligned to the business. Organizations that are dynamic face added challenges of needing quick returns versus tolerating longer projects which can’t address changing targets.
Thank you Stacey for providing post interview answers to queries.
Got this comment in the GITCA forum which speaks to the great advice provided by Stacey:
Adnan Rafik • very interesting interesting interview.