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How do you write an outstanding blog post? Mon 30 Apr 07

I was recently asked, "How do you write an outstanding blog post?"  Tough question.  However, once I get beyond the initial flippant reactions of:

  • Why are you asking me?
  • I wish I knew!
  • If I knew the answer to that I would have done it already.

I find it really is something worth thinking about.  Since I've started blogging back in October of last year I've made over 100 posts.  Some have been pretty lame, some pretty good but not popular, some popular but not all that good (in my opinion) and a few that were pretty good and popular.  Although I believe some are pretty good and that I'm getting better at this I'm not quite ready to call any outstanding yet. (I love a challenge.)

So what does makes a post outstanding?  For me it has 2 elements.

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Revisiting the CIO Reporting to the CFO Fri 27 Apr 07

Accountant Back in October I talked about the CIO reporting to the CFO.  A few days later I reported on a "State of the CIO" survey that Chris Koch discussed in his blog.  I suggested that the CIO really needed to report to the CEO rather than the CFO to be strategic.  Back then I said,

The difficulty is in the chicken or egg argument.  Does IT report to the CFO because it is tactical or is it tactical because it reports to the CFO?  But as Koch correctly reports, ". . . something is sure to crop up around the corner that could present an opportunity for a company that uses IT tactically to start using it strategically. Bury your CIO inside finance and you'll be sure to miss that opportunity."

Last week Brian Gillooly in his CIO Nation blog gives us a Sneak Peek at "Defining the CIO" Research.

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Standardizing for Efficiency - The Question is "More Efficient for Whom?" Wed 25 Apr 07

Last week Mark Graban over at Lean Blog had a great post about standardization, "Out of Step: What's Important to Standardize?"  He focused not so much on the question of "what to standardize" but instead asked the even more important question of "why standardize".  He cautioned against standardizing for the sake of standardizing.  As Mark points out, you create standards because they add value and if people can see that value they are happy to comply with the standards.

Binaryflowadrenalin We in IT love standards.  We have standard configurations for PCs, programming standards, service level standards and so on and so on.  At some level I think standards appeal to people in technical fields.  We are used to looking at things in a binary fashion.  It's either 1 or 0, on or off, black or white.  We standardize to lower costs, prevent problems and generally to make everything more efficient.

Being efficient is important in today's competitive world.  However, before you rush to standardize something for the sake of efficiency you need to ask yourself one question.

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Breaking the BlackBerry Addiction - Going Cold Turkey Mon 23 Apr 07

Onlineaddictionbobdegraaf_2Last Monday I posted an article suggesting that one way to break the habit of constantly checking email on your BlackBerry (a.k.a. "Crackberry) or laptop was to set the notification option to "off" or "none".  This would remove the temptation to stop what you were doing and instantly review each new incoming email. 

As the saying goes, "Timing is everything."  The day after my post came the sudden and shocking "BlackBerry outage".  It started Tuesday night and lasted for almost 12 hours.  We were forced to face the real world cold turkey.  Scary isn't it.

It did however lead to some interesting observations:

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Are We Creating Problems By Design? Fri 20 Apr 07

Frustration_2Mark Graban over at Lean Blog had a post this past Sunday that was an "Ah Ha" moment for me.  His post, "That's What We're Here For" struck a chord with me.  He relates how he when he registered for access to a web site he was given an Owner Name, Owner Number, Conference Code and Leader PIN.   However, when he tried to login it required an Owner Name and  a "Password" instead.  I won't relate the whole story but it involved needing a User Name which was not the same thing as the Owner Name and it gets worse from there.  No doubt you can see the problem this can cause.  Graban called Tech Support which was able to get him going.  He then relates:

I said to the tech support rep, "You know, the website is very confusing. I'm good with computers and I couldn't figure it out because things are labeled wrong on screen and it seems every new user has to make a tech support call, which costs us all money."

The tech support rep was sort of irritated and said, "Well sir, that's what we're here for."

A situation that could have been easily avoided with consistent wording and clear instructions.  Yet this is not all that uncommon.

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Remember What Your Mother Taught You - Always Say Thank You. Wed 18 Apr 07

Annie_4 Anne Fisher, a senior writer for Fortune magazine had interesting article in her recent "Ask Annie" column.  Her column Why saying "Thank you" is more than just good manners highlights how important it is to sincerely recognize people for their contributions.  In this post she quotes some research that indicates that companies that have a culture of recognizing contribution and excellence show better performance than those that don't.  This is all based on the book "The Carrot Principle" by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  More information is available at www.carrots.com.

While I believe it is a good idea to recognize people I'm always skeptical when people try to link one management trait to superior company performance.    Superior company performance result from many things not just one type of action.  In this case I think you should recognize people simply because it is the right thing to do and the right way to treat people.  You shouldn't need a monetary incentive to do this.

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Break the BlackBerry and Laptop Addiction Mon 16 Apr 07

Blackberry_lance_mccord_4eWeek.com recently reported on a recent poll by Reuters that determined that the use of BlackBerrys and laptops tend to blur the distinction between our work life and our home life.  We are always available and always checking email.  The survey found "Nearly 30 percent were so attached to them they only switched them off while sleeping."

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.  To use the technical IT acronym this is a BFO - a Blinding Flash of the Obvious.  This sounds like one of those multi-million dollar research studies funded by our tax dollars that discover such breakthroughs discoveries as: "most people like chocolate".

It's no accident that BlackBerrys have earned the nickname "CrackBerry".  Being always accessible and connected to email can be an addictive habit.  Has your family ever gotten upset because you just had to check email 20 times per day while you were on vacation?  If so, maybe you're ready for a 12-step program.  The good news is that there are some things you can do to get your BlackBerry use under control without completely giving up on email entirely.

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Smart Enterprise Magazine - IT Blogs Fri 13 Apr 07

Smartenterp245 Paul Hyman a writer for Smart Enterprise Magazine just published a short article in the Spring 2007 edition, Blog Wise - These six Web blogs are written for and by innovative CIOs and IT leaders.  It's a great article that gives brief descriptions complete with excerpts of six IT related blogs.  One of the things that I thought was great about the article is that he included my blog as one of the six (not that I'm biased mind you).

I'm quite pleased with this considering the quality of the other blogs.  It is pretty impressive company.  I thought I had done a pretty good job of ferreting out most of the good IT blogs but Paul has found a few I hadn't and it's quite a good list. 

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Selling the Software: 4 Questions You Need to Answer Wed 11 Apr 07

Softwaredemo Like most IT execs I've sat through more than my share of software presentations.  These included vendors trying to sell me the greatest thing since sliced bread and my own application folks or members of my user community trying to sell me on a application or system concept.  Even if you aren't in IT I'd be willing to bet that you've seen a fair number of these presentations too.  I don't know about your experience but I'd have to say that most of the ones I've been in were "ineffective" to put it kindly.  The danger is of course if we are the ones making these types of presentation to approving managers.  Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.

Having recently sat through yet another software presentation I gave some thought to why so many seem to be so ineffective.  I believe that the audience has 4 basic questions they want answered and you really have to answer these questions in order because they build on each other.  Looking back at the ineffective presentations I've seen I noticed that the presenter completely skipped or barely covered the first 2 questions.  As a result, the presenter never "connected" with the audience's interest and they could never buy-in to the concept.

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You Can Learn A Lot From A Used Car Salesman: That's The Way We Dooz It Mon 09 Apr 07

King_generic_promo_still_320x240One of my favorite TV shows is King of Cars on A&E.  And it is not just because they have the greatest theme song since the Miami Vice TV show's theme song.  The show is about Towbin Dodge in Las Vegas that is the #1 used car dealer in the country.  It follows the daily activities of Josh "Chop" Towbin  a.k.a "The King of Cars" and his sales team.  Chop became famous for the unusual bi-weekly infomercial featuring his sales team as some rather strange characters to say the least.  Chop and his show have a very interesting story and although not everyone is a fan of his techniques you do have to say the show is entertaining.

However, this article isn't about selling used cars or about being entertaining.  It is about managing, developing, and motivating your employees.  Chop shows a rather unique management style and ability to develop and get the most from his employees.

Continue reading "You Can Learn A Lot From A Used Car Salesman: That's The Way We Dooz It" »

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