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Change Your Vocabulary and Change Your Focus Mon 24 Sep 07

Focus_ihtathoI often hear IT folks talk of projects such as converting plants on to one system, or reorganizing all of IT into one centrally controlled IT group.  When you ask them why they are advocating these things the answer is often - efficiency.  Wouldn't things be  better if everyone was on the same system or if we were all in the same group?  I guess it a characteristic trait of people in technological fields, we want to make things better.

While I certainly appreciate the benefits of being more efficient I can help but want to ask two questions.  First, more efficient for whom?  Hopefully it is the business operations that we've made more efficient and not just the IT operations?  And secondly, for whom does this make things better?  Again, hopefully it is the business that is reaping most of the benefits of this improved efficiency.

Too often however the answer is to both questions is IT.  We puff up our chests and proudly exclaim about the great job we've done in reducing our costs and improving our operations.  If we look closely though we just might see that those outside of IT don't share our enthusiasm.  We tend to be too internally focused on ourselves and on efficiency / cost reduction.  The good news is that's what we're good at doing.  The bad news is while it is nice that really isn't what the business see as our most important role.  This internal/efficiency focus helps explain how it is that while the CEO may feel information technology is important to success of the company, the information technology department isn't.  We've made ourselves into a utility and left the business to fend for it self on the strategic use of information technology.

I'd like to suggest that we change our focus and let's start by changing our vocabulary.

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Do You Have A Mission Statement? Mon 17 Sep 07

62043main_footprint_on_moon_4 The other day while surfing on CNN I came across an interesting article, CNN Heroes: The men of Apollo about the documentary movie "In the Shadow of the Moon".  The movie is about the Apollo astronauts and their memories of the Apollo missions.  From time immemorial, man has looked at the moon and wondered what it would be like to walk on it.  I've always kind of envied Neil Armstrong for being able to be the one.

What caught my attention in the CNN article is when they used one of my favorite President Kennedy quotes:

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

What I've always admired about this quote is that is one of the best examples of a mission statement that I've ever seen.  I like its clarity.  It gets right to the point.  It succinctly tells us what we are trying to do and when we need to have it done.  You don't see that very often anymore.

Over at Man on a Mission blog they list mission statements from quite a few companies.  Frankly most of them aren't very good.  Typically, they're too long and written more as advertisements and leave you wondering about what it is exactly they are trying to do.  Take a look at a few of them.  If you read some of them without knowing what company they are for you might have a very hard time of figuring out what they are trying to accomplish.

Arguably, Kennedy's statement may not be comparable to all these company mission statements since it is not the mission statement for the government but for a single project.  Writing a mission statement for a project should be simpler since the mission is so much more focused than the mission for an organization.

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An IT Question: Who Should Pay? Wed 12 Sep 07

Help_cobber99_3Now that budgeting season is upon us I thought I'd ask a question about who should pay for your IT services.

Should you charge your users based upon how much service they get from IT?  Will this drive them to the lower cost "shadow IT" with its inherent risks and problems?  Since they are paying will they opt out of programs and policies that are in the company's best interests?

Conversely, should IT be free with no charge to the users?  This may encourage them to use IT but will it be done effectively?

My question is "Who should pay for IT?"  What do you think?  How do you do it at your company and why?

"Help" photo by Cobber99

Got a question you'd like me to post for future discussion?  Email it to me using the "Email Mike" link in the left hand column.

If this topic was of interest, you might also like the other posts in the IT Question category.

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The Internet and "The Tragedy of the Commons" Mon 10 Sep 07

Sheep_grazing_in_english_field_uk_wIn my last post I talked about Adblock Plus a Firefox plugin that people are starting to use to block all adds on web sites.  They are doing to counter the annoyance of advertising on the Internet which is what ultimately "pays" for what we get from the Internet.  By blocking ads are we ultimately jeopardizing the future of the Internet?

The issue comes about when we have essentially free access to a resource.  The theory is that we all act in our self-interest even it is to the ultimate detriment of the resource.  This is known as the "Tragedy of the Commons" which takes its name from Garrett Hardin's 1968 essay although this has been discussed for quite a long time even back to Thucydides and Aristotle.  The classic example is the village commons (hence the name), a shared pasture where all may graze their animals.  With this free resource it is in everyone's best interest to add to their flock and graze as much as possible.  Ultimately this leads to overgrazing of the commons and the benefit is lost to all.

In a sense the Internet is the modern day commons.  It is for all intents and purposes "free" with the limitation being our ability to use it effectively.  The self interest actions we see include:

  • Spammers bombarding us with unwanted emails
  • Advertising every where and done in an annoying manner
  • People using software to block advertising
  • People using anti-spam software sometimes blocking the wanted with the unwanted

Mike Lee cites an recent example of his favorite cafe going out of business possibly due to the "overgrazing" of the free Internet access in his post "Don't Be a Cafe WiFi Moocher" (see also Free WiFi spawns cafe backlash ).

So what can be done to maintain the Internet as usable resource?

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Adblock - Savior or Scourge? Thu 06 Sep 07

Stop_signs_high_springs_adobemac There is an interesting little plugin available for the Firefox browser going around called Adblock Plus that has some pretty significant implications for your Internet experience.  This plugin erases all of the ads from web pages - stops them cold.  No more Google Adsense ad, no more annoying pop-ups.  Nirvana, right?  Well maybe not.  If you stop to think about the economics of the Internet this might not be a good thing.  After all it is all that advertising that drives all the "free" sites we love.  We all love Google but advertising is the price we pay to use it.

The NY Times quotes the developer of Adblock Plus as estimating that there about 2.5 million users of Adblock worldwide which is not yet enough to be a serious problem.  He goes on to estimate that it is growing at about 300,000 to 400,000 users per month.  I noted that a simple Technorati search of the term Adblock lists around 25 pages of blog references within the past seven days so it would appear that it is generating interest.

Apparently, for the time being Google is being quiet about all of this perhaps hoping it will not grow to be a significant problem.  However, this does pose a "Sophie's choice" dilemma for them.  As Nicholas Carr states:

The company [Google] is in a particularly dicey position. The broad adoption of ad-blocking software could devastate its business, yet an outright attempt to block the use of such programs would run counter to its often-expressed commitment to give users what they want. If web users decide they don't want to see ads, Google would face an extremely unpleasant dilemma. Either its business or its credibility would end up in tatters.

So what will happen?

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“I’m on LinkedIn — Now What???” by Jason Alba Tue 04 Sep 07

JasonalbaMy good friend Jason Alba brings a very interesting perspective to managing your career.  Jason is the founder of the JibberJobber Career Toolset which is an excellent tool to help you manage and organize your career so that you can concentrate on your career rather than the organizational tasks.  The JibberJobber website and blog also provide some valuable information and advice.    What is interesting about all of this is that Jason didn't start JibberJobber as a "HR professional" or recruiter or career counselor.  He, like a lot of us found himself  "in transition" and seeing a need put his IT skills to work and started JibberJobber.  So unlike a lot of career advisors Jason has actually lived the career search travails and brings a real world perspective to his advice and to JibberJobber which is why I like it so much.

To add to this Jason has just published “I’m on LinkedIn — Now What???” that really helps you make the most of LinkedIn the social networking tool for your professional and career networking.  [Update February 17, 2008 - this is now on Amazon.] If you haven't joined LinkedIn to help manage your professional networking you need to (it's free although they do also offer additional services for a price) and you need to read Jason's book on how to best use use LinkedIn.

I like Jason's book for a number of reasons. Jason gives a refreshingly honest and balanced review of LinkedIn.  He'll tell you what is good about LinkedIn and what is not so good; how to use it and how it shouldn't be used.  Basically he not only tells you about what it is but also what it isn't.  He makes suggestions and supports them by telling you why he makes a particular recommendation.  I really appreciate that kind of information. 

Just as he does in JibberJobber Jason also provides a real world perspective of a person that actually uses the product to his book.  His tips are very logical and practical.  I especially like his suggestion on how to set up your profile.  I followed his straightforward instructions and it resulted in a more complete profile.  This book will really help you maximize the potential of LinkedIn by guiding you in how you set up your profile and how you use it.

Both JibberJobber and LinkedIn are useful tools for managing your career and now Jason has added a practical guide “I’m on LinkedIn — Now What???”.   These are 3 powerful tools - make the most of them.

If this topic was of interest, you might also like these:

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