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Do CIOs Know (Their) Business? [Part 1] Mon 29 Oct 07

Untitled_wallst_jeffreywithtwofsCIOs are uniquely positioned to understand their company's business more than many others in the company.  The theory behind this is that IT "touches" every aspect of the company and therefore IT has the broadest exposure to the business.  But does this theory hold up under closer scrutiny?

Traditionally CIO came up through the ranks of IT and were very technically focused which limited their business exposure.  And as for touching all aspects of the business that really doesn't happen until you get near the top.  Below that level you tend to focus on particular areas.  Rare is the business analyst/developer that handles both payroll and inventory for example.  Fortunately with the trend of CIOs having worked outside of IT and having an MBA you should expect to see more business knowledge.  Unfortunately the facts don't seem to support this.

Continue reading "Do CIOs Know (Their) Business? [Part 1]" »

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Gimme The Names Mon 22 Oct 07

A lot of the projects that we work on are touted as being labor savings projects.  I say "touted" because often even though the projects are successfully implemented we never seem to see any reduction in labor costs.  Frustrated with this one of my old bosses used to have a stock reply to labor savings projects that usually went something like this:

Your_name_is_on_my_list_by_schlaege Requester: If we do this project we'll save 80 hours of engineering effort per week.

Boss:  Gimme the names.

Requester: The names?

Boss: Yes, 80 hours per week is 2 people.  I want to know the names of the people that you'll be firing.

Requester:  (significant pause) Um, Uh, We weren't actually planning on firing anybody.

Boss: Well if no one is leaving how are we getting any labor savings?

Requester: We were planning on using them to do something else.

Boss: Before I'll let you "rehire" those 2 justify to me the merits of this something else.

The boss wasn't really on a mission to fire people but he did want to make sure there was a sound justification for what we were doing.  Fortunately there are some things you can do to make sure you get the economic return you were expecting.

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Some More Thought Provoking Ideas from Matt Moran Thu 18 Oct 07

Matt_moran Matt Moran consistently writes some pretty thought provoking posts about the world of IT.  I first ran across Matt's stuff at the ITToolbox where he has contributed over 700 posts.  I especially loved his "Policy Parrot" stories.  Matt brings a practical real-world approach to IT and is very customer focused which is why I like his stuff so much.

In addition to writing at ITToolBox Matt has his own blog, Matt Moran - Caffeine / Life / Technology / Music and runs Kreative Knowledge.  He has a couple of clips posted there from his speaking engagements.  These are very thought provoking in terms of how IT conducts its business and IT's approach to customer service.  Take a look.

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An Over Reliance on Technology Mon 15 Oct 07

Speak_spell_injuThe other day a reader, Mark Siegel, sent me an email about one of my earlier posts on email disclaimers.  He also left a little post-script:

Shouldn't "don't won't" be "don't want"?

He was absolutely correct, it should have been "don't want" (which I've since corrected).  Oops I did it again.  I put my brain on hold and over relied on technology, i. e. the spell checker, to make sure things were right.  That's the problem with technology.  It's so easy to use and so right -- most of the time.  When it doesn't work or we use it beyond its capabilities is when we run in to problems.

A few days later I was listening to a story on National Public Radio about airline safety.  The story detailed how much safer flying was due in large part to improved technology.  Since I fly fairly often I should find this to be good news and I do.  However, at the same time it scares me a little.  I just hope some pilot or air traffic controller doesn't do what I did - over rely on technology.

I'm not suggesting that we abandon technology by any means.  I'm just suggesting that we remember that technology can relieve of us work but not of responsibility.  At the end of the day we and not the technology are responsible for our work product.  This is true whether it is spell checking, flying a plane or writing a program.  Just because the computer says 2+2=5 doesn't make it so.  The Educated Nation | Higher Education Blog  has a post from July of this year entitled "Technology Reverses the Smartness" that references a Telegraph UK article that says in part, "An over reliance on technology is leading to a dumbing down of the nation’s brain power . . ."  Not a very pleasing concept.

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Blog Birthday: Has It Really Been A Year? Thu 11 Oct 07

J0384672_2Wow! Has it really been a year?  Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms is having its first birthday.  When I first started this, I had a list of about 15 topics to get me going and was hoping I'd be able to come up with enough new ones to keep the blog going.  Fortunately I'm now at 170 so I'm hopeful I'll be able to make a go of it.

I originally started this as a way to "brand" myself during a job search.  However, it has grown to more than just a branding effort.  So much so that I've kept it going even after I landed a new job.  Looking at what's happened this past year:

Compared to the big blogs this is nothing.  Some of them can get as many visitors in a day as I get in a year.  Although I may not be the largest and most popular blog around it has far exceeded my wildest expectations.  I couldn't be happier.  It's been a wild and fun ride.  I've learned a lot, met some great people and we've had some pretty good conversations.  I'd rather have that than the big rankings.  I look forward to the next year.

Thanks to Kent for convincing me to start this blog and to Jason and Dan for convincing me that Kent was right.  And most of all thanks to my readers for making it worthwhile.

While I look to the 2nd year I'd love to get some feedback.  What would you like to hear more of?  less of?  Can we talk?

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Accomodating Those A**hole Censors Mon 08 Oct 07

Stop_signs_high_springs_adobemacI recently spent some time re-editing a post because of the problems it was causing with Internet filtering programs.  Back in July I wrote a post, Take The Test: Are You An IT A**hole Or An IT Hero?  which is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek test based on Professor Bob Sutton's Work Matters blog which discusses his book "The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't".

Actually, the problem is that in the original post I used "ss" instead of "**".  As a result I've learned that some Internet filtering programs are blocking my blog due to "offensive language".  When I wrote this I considered self-censoring it but after reading some of Professor Sutton's posts on how his book title was being handled in the media I decided to follow his lead and leave the "ss" in.  Those that know me do know that I do use strong language from time to time but I don't use it as a normal part of my conversation.  However, sometime using substitutes don't just convey the same meaning and intensity which is why I agree with Sutton on using the term.  For an interesting discussion on how Sutton has handled this see "The Decent Thing to Call My Book"

Apparently some IT administrators and/or web filtering providers don't agree and as a result this site was blocked.  Interestingly enough I've been told that when the package blocks my site for "offensive language" it lists the offensive terms which is ironic.  It kind of makes you wonder how you filter the filtering software.

While I do think that Internet filtering should be used in the corporate world I don't think it should be overused.  Here are some suggestions for using web filtering effectively.

Continue reading "Accomodating Those A**hole Censors" »

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Another New Wrinkle In User Interfaces Mon 01 Oct 07

Keyboards_drb62_2A couple of months ago I wrote about what I considered the most significant thing about the iPhone, namely its user interface.  The touch screen  concepts of the iPhone along with the  types of technology used in surface computing and Microsoft's Center for Information Work indicate some exciting new possibilities in my opinion [see the original post for videos demonstrating these new technologies].

The folks over at Scientific American blog recently reported on yet another emerging interface, "The keyboard is dead; Long live... Whatever".   The blog references an Electronic Engineering Times article "Text-entry algorithm takes aim at Qwerty".  It seems that the folks at kannuu have developed a potentially easier way to type.  The technology is a one thumb device where after you enter a letter it uses predictive technology to present choices for the next letter and ultimately the full word.  As kannuu describes it:

With our elegantly simple Partial Word Completion™ technology, accessed by using an up, down, left, right and centre choice or 5 way directional selection control such as those commonly found on mobile devices, kannuu delivers a fast, seamless, and error-free search experience. And being software-based, it works with any mobile device.

The Scientific American article shows how the word "technology" can be entered with only 7 clicks using kannuu compared to the usual 13 on a traditional keyboard.  You can also see a demo of this at kannuu.com.

Like these other technologies it is too early to tell if this technology will truly work or if it will catch on.  However, it is interesting to see how computer interfaces are changing from the keyboard and green screens to a GUI/mouse interface to new and different touch and voice interfaces.

It will be fun to see where all this goes don't you think?  Who knows, maybe being "all thumbs" will be a good thing.

"keyboards" photo by DRB62

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