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The Un-Marketing of IT - The Survey Results Wed 29 Oct 08

Questionaire_kim_pierroIn my last post, I discussed the issue of IT restricting the use of the very technology we provide and how this is received by our user community.  I suggested that the limits we impose has an "un-marketing" effect that undermines our efforts to promote IT as a strategic partner.  Although these limitations may be necessary for a number of valid reasons, they can create a very negative perception of IT.  As the old saying goes, "Perception Is Reality," or at least, a user's perception is his reality.

I also suggested a few things we can do to improve that perception.  In addition, I included a survey to get your thoughts on the subject.  I thought I'd review the results of the survey to see what they may indicate.

The survey results are as of Oct. 25. Each question received between 230 and 275 "yes" or "no" responses. I had suspected that IT providers might have a distinctly different view of the issues than consumers do. We received fewer responses to this question than others due to a software glitch, but in general the people who answered the survey seem divided pretty equally between IT providers and consumers--suggesting that both groups have similar views on these questions. Thank you if you took part in the survey--and if you haven't voted yet, please click here.

Now for the results:

1. Do you believe IT unnecessarily limits the use of the technologies it delivers?

Yes 74%,  No 26% 

By an overwhelming response, it is clear that you think companies limit the use of technology unnecessarily.  That is not to say there isn't a good reason, but rather most of you don't believe, or are not aware, there is a good reason.  This is a subtle but important difference.

2. Does IT limiting the use of technology create a poor impression of IT?

Yes 87%, No 13%

By a ratio of more than 6 to 1, people feel that limiting technology use leads to a poor impression of IT.  It is interesting to note that the same proportion of IT providers and IT consumers agreed on this. Clearly, our approach does un-market IT, and IT might be its own worst enemy.

The next 3 questions dealt with how we deal (or perhaps do not deal) with the impact of these technology limitations. 

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The Un-Marketing of IT Wed 15 Oct 08

Dont_use_your_laptop_while_eishierIt is generally accepted that CIOs need to "market" information technology inside a corporation to get other executives and employees to think of it as a strategic area of operations and not just a cost center.

What concerns me is that these marketing efforts may be undermined by efforts to "un-market" information technology. IT seems to be the only area of an organization that I can think of that actively discourages people from using its "product" even if they use it properly. Tobacco, liquor and gambling all have warnings to discourage use, but even they don't seem to take it as far as IT. I don't imagine any of us ever thought of IT as a "vice." Some examples:

  • We promote the use of e-mail but then limit the amount of inbox storage or the size of files that can be attached to e-mails.
  • We tout the Internet as a data goldmine and then we block people from visiting so-called non-business sites. Sometimes it is human resources pushing this, but sometimes it is IT.
  • We provide people with a PC as a tool to make their job easier but lock it down so they can't add programs or even choose their own wallpaper.
  • We warn people of the dire consequences of not using the application properly, threatening them with legal action every time they use the application or start their PC.

The warning is especially aggravating as it serves no real purpose. Someone intent on using our systems for illegal purposes isn't going to be intimidated by those warnings. The warnings only insult the honest user and promote an image of the "IT Police." What's the point of that?

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If I Had A Hammer… Tue 07 Oct 08

Hammer_darren_hesterSeth Godin had a recent post based on the the Abraham Maslow quote, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail".  This a rather famous quote that matches well with something I've noticed in IT.  It seems that we often become enamored with the latest technology and treat it as a "hammer" - it can solve any problem and is always the right solution in every situation [Rant Alert!].

The most recent (and perhaps the most extreme) example of this Apple's iPhone.  The iPhone is a great product and can do a lot of things and a lot of people really like it.  Many of them extol the its virtues as the technology that meets all of your communications needs in a way far surpasses any competing technology.  It is simply the right tool for all situations. Personally, as good as it is there some applications when other technologies may be more appropriate.

My goal is not to bad-mouth the iPhone and I say this for a number of reasons:

  1. I'm sure the Apple disciples will contact me to let me know that there really is not a problem, Apple is the best technology for every situation after all.
  2. As I said, Apple is only the most recent and perhaps most extreme and wide-spread example.  I've seen this before with other technologies and software applications.
  3. It really is a good product although not necessarily perfect for every situation.

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Lessons From The Disaster: Managing People and Technology Wed 01 Oct 08

Banner_yet_waves_baldheretic Hurricane Ike hit the Houston-Galveston area pretty hard.  I live north of Houston, about 80 miles from the coast.  We had hurricane force winds that knocked down more than 700 trees in our neighborhood, crushing cars and homes and cutting off power for 9½ days.  Trees can pack quite a wallop when they come crashing down (I got a new skylight courtesy of one of them).  Despite all of this, we all realize how lucky we are compared to those closer to the coast who lost everything.

In terms of dealing with these types of disasters this, as we say in Texas, "wasn't my first rodeo".  I've had to deal with a personal catastrophe (a house fire) and one other corporate catastrophe (fire at the corporate headquarters) before.  However, Hurricane Ike was the first where I had to deal with disaster on both levels and where the disaster is so wide-spread.  Here are my observations and some lessons learned:

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