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iPhone Enterprise Anxieties Mon 30 Jun 08

Iphone_sparktography_2About a year ago the corporate information technology (IT) world was filled with angst awaiting the roll-out of the new iPhone. If the pundits and the hype were to be believed, the day after the iPhone came out we'd find all the executives queued up outside our doors demanding that we get them this cool new iPhone and somehow figure out how to connect it to the corporate e-mail system too. At the time, I predicted that this would turn out to be much ado about nothing. Happily, I was spot on. From a corporate perspective the "cool" factor wasn't enough to overcome the issues of cost and the inability to connect with corporate e-mail systems.

Apple is now set to launch its 3G iPhone and is taking aim squarely at the corporate user, no doubt hoping to displace the corporate standard BlackBerry. The 3G, which stands for "third generation" and promises the latest in high-speed Internet access for your phone, has certainly edged closer to meeting corporate needs.

But is it enough? On July 11, when Apple starts shipping the iPhone, will we find hoards of colleagues at our door, demanding iPhones?

The biggest obstacle to the iPhone was e-mail. According to Apple's Web site, 3G provides "support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and industry-standard corporate security standards allows IT professionals to seamlessly integrate iPhone into their corporate environments."

Taking Apple at its word, I'll give them credit for e-mail and check that box off. However, as Brian Caulfield points out in his article "Seven iPhone Disappointments", there are numerous other shortfalls compared to the BlackBerry that may keep people from switching.
Here's the big one for me: the fundamental approach that Apple and BlackBerry have taken. One puts consumers first; the other puts business executives first.

Apple is primarily a music player and phone that can now also do e-mail. BlackBerry has from the start focused primarily on providing the business user with an e-mail device that also works as a phone. A subtle difference perhaps, but it would appear to have a resulted in significantly different outcomes.

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Shield Bearer Counseling Centers Thu 26 Jun 08

I'm pleased to announce that I am joining Shield Bearer Counseling Centers as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors.  This is a great way for me to give back to the community in a way that I can use my skills to help others  (don't worry I'm not one of the counselers).

"Shield Bearer Counseling Centers exists to assist people who are struggling with individual, marital and family problems. Shield Bearer offers highly trained and educated counselors who can provide the kind of confidentiality and specialized treatment plan that can help get people started in the right direction."

Shield Bearer offers counseling by therapists licensed in the state of Texas but more importantly they are people that care about helping other people.  As a 501c3 nonprofit charitable organization they turn no one away; services are offered on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.  Shield Bearer currently sees people who struggle with:

  • Sexual Abuse
  • Depression
  • Marital infidelity
  • Anxiety
  • Adolescent issues
  • Parenting challenges
  • Trauma
  • Anger Management

In addition, Shield Bearer provides several community and school based programs.  This past Spring, over 650 high school students completed the Date Rape and Dating Violence Prevention Programs.  Schools of Poverty receive the Strong Fathers Strong Families increasing student academic performance, school safety and parent involvement.  Conflict resolution and community building are also available to businesses, teams and community organizations. 

Shield-Bearer is an approved referral source for Cy-Fair Independent School District, the third largest ISD in the state of Texas. Shield Bearer is an approved training site for graduate counseling students including Master’s level students from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work. 

If you are in the Houston area and know someone needing any of these excellent services, please contact Shield Bearer.

Shield Bearer Counseling Center (www.fightingforhearts.org)
12345 Jones Road, Suite 285
Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 77070
281-894-7222 (SBCC)

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The IT Budget Shuffle Mon 23 Jun 08

Money_tw_collinsWe have seen some pretty significant changes over the past five to 10 years in where we spend our dollars in software, infrastructure and personnel.

In software, we’re spending more on customizable applications. We’ve seen a shift away from the large, one-size-fits-all mainframe programs to PC- and Web-based applications that can be customized. Even enterprise-class programs now have more user-controlled features and customizations than just a few years ago.

In addition, we now want integration in our applications. Sales systems need to integrate to accounting systems, which need to integrate to production and purchasing systems, and so on.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about software-as-a-service, or SaaS, where software applications are hosted by a service provider and made available to customers over the Internet. With the notable exception of Salesforce.com, we have yet to see SaaS live up to the hype. I believe that the demand for customization and integration has overtaken the economics of SaaS and that it will difficult for SaaS to become a significant part of IT budgets. Time will tell.

Continue reading "The IT Budget Shuffle" »

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Are you efficient but ineffective? Or effective but inefficient? Tue 17 Jun 08

Get_the_balance_right_marquette_la IT managers can't survive by just whacking costs out of the system--they have to add value and let management know how they're doing it. [See: "Quit Trying to Reduce Costs!"]  One important reason for this is self-preservation.  If we only focus on being cost efficient we may never get the opportunity to show we can add value.

IT managers perform a constant balancing act between providing exceptional service to our users and being efficient by keeping costs low. We really do want to provide the best possible service to our users. We'd love to have a battalion of resources at the beck and call of our customers--everyone from the business analysts and developers to the PC and system support people. The catch is that there are practical limits to what we can provide.

Budget pressures limit the personnel and systems resources we can provide. We are constantly being pressured to do more with less. In this sense our goal is to be as "efficient" as possible. Realistically we have to balance these goals so we deliver value--the right amount of service at the right cost.

Here's where the balancing game gets dangerous: We can be "efficiently ineffective," keeping our costs down but ultimately not really providing the service our customers need. Or "inefficiently effective," where we provide first-class service but at champagne prices that our company can't pay.

Of course, our destination is to be "efficiently effective"--but reality suggests most of us start on one side or the other of that Mount Everest of goals. Happily, we do have some degree of control over whether we begin our ascent from the "efficient ineffectiveness" or "inefficient effective" side of the mountain.

Those of us who tend toward efficient ineffectiveness typically overemphasize efficiency and standardization. We write air-tight policies, enforce standardization without exception, provide automated service instead of personal service and make our users adjust to what is most efficient for IT. Admittedly there is some hyperbole in that last statement and some of these actions actually benefit our customers in addition to making IT more efficient. However, no matter how you look at it, we in IT are very good at making our operations efficient.

Continue reading "Are you efficient but ineffective? Or effective but inefficient?" »

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Outsourcing Your Reputation Mon 09 Jun 08

Raffles_singapore_sling_2I just returned from circumnavigating the globe with stops in India, Singapore and Malaysia.  It was a fantastic trip as I got to see many interesting things and meet some great people.  Although the purpose of the trip was business I did have some spare time for sightseeing.  Most of my time was in Singapore which is an especially nice place to visit.  In addition to seeing some of the sights I made the de rigueur visit to the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling.  The recipe for this drink from this turn-of-the-century colonial Singapore drink is in the graphic for this post if you're interested.  Raffles and the Long Bar is great way to figuratively go back in time.  I just wish I could afford to stay there.

On my last night in Singapore before returning to Houston I returned from dinner around 10:00 PM and since my shuttle to the airport was to pick me up at 3:30 AM I thought I would stay up all night and sleep later on the plane to start my adjustment to a new time zone.   During this time I got on the Internet to catch up on emails and other work.  Unfortunately around 11:30 the Internet stopped working.  I waited about 15 minutes thinking it might be a temporary problem.  When it didn't come back I called the front desk.  They indicated that they would have the Internet company call back which they did a few minutes later.  The Internet company indicated he network was down for maintenance and that it would be available in about an hour.  The service came back as promised and worked fine although this unannounced outage was frustrating.

Obviously since providing Internet service is not a core competency of the hotel they logically outsourced it to another company.  This apparently planned but unannounced maintenance period provides two learning opportunities; one for the Internet provider and one for the hotel, i.e. the company doing the outsourcing.

Continue reading "Outsourcing Your Reputation" »

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Jackie Bassett's Take On IT Adding Value Tue 03 Jun 08

Yesterday I talked about IT needing to talk about value rather than just cost reduction.  In a guest post at Deal Architect, Jackie Bassett makes a good case of why we need to need to focus on value.  As she says "We need to stop focusing on emergencies and efficiencies or we become the very definition of a cost center."  Take a look at her post "The Real Deal: Jackie Bassett - Stop educating the CEO about the business value of technology", I think you'll like it.

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Quit Trying To Reduce Costs! Mon 02 Jun 08

Discount_quinn_anya_3 That's right, IT managers shouldn't try to reduce costs above all else.

Now before you go to your CFO and suggest this let me make it clear that I'm not suggesting that we forget about cost reduction, rather I'm suggesting we change our focus. Managing cost is a big deal for IT and for any CFO. Due to the economics of technology we've seen continual decreases in hardware and network expenses. So much so that reducing costs, year over year, has been easy. Couple this trend with increased performance for the same hardware that costs less and we have looked like heroes.

The downside to this happy story is that it has lulled us into focusing primarily on cost.  When we talk about our accomplishments we tout how much we've reduced cost and talk about future cost reductions. Not surprisingly our audience, the leadership of the company, starts to think of IT in terms of cost.

Now the hardware and network cost curve is flattening out a bit. And that leaves us facing the prospect of trying to push down costs further when the best lever we have is cutting personnel expenses. That's when you start hearing not-so-subtle suggestions from your CFO and CEO about outsourcing data centers and programming staff.

Rather than just talking about cost, technologists have to start talking about value.  Value is the benefit received relative to its cost. Simply stated:

Value = Benefit / Cost

Cost is an element in this equation but so is the benefit, a factor we don't always give the attention it deserves.  We can increase value by increasing the benefit or by reducing the cost.  Why not do both?

Continue reading "Quit Trying To Reduce Costs! " »

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