Better Communication: Technology Isn't Always The Best Solution Tue 04 Jan 11

Kiddo Discussions Bindaas MadhaviIT folks get a lot of knocks for poor communication skills.   In response we typically react by increasing the number of emails we send out and the announcements we post on our company's intranet.  Ultimately we are shocked to learn all this extra effort doesn't improve the perception of IT as poor communicators.

This is like the comic situation of meeting a foreigner who doesn't speak your language and assuming that they will surely understand you if you simply speak louder.  The sad reality is that when people refer to our poor communication skills they are often referring to the quality of our communication rather than the quantity.

Simply increasing the amount of poorly done communication doesn't make things better.  We need to change our style instead.  Email and intranet posting can be great ways to communicate, just not for all situations.

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Keeping Data Safe From IT Snoops Wed 21 Apr 10

How to improve data security and privacy.

Laptop looking truthout A Pennsylvania school district made headlines recently with accusations that two of the district's IT employees were spying on students and took "thousands" of pictures of students in their homes without their knowledge, using the cameras in their school-supplied laptops. The school district contends that the ability to remotely take pictures was a security feature used solely to help locate lost or missing laptops. The situation came to light when the school district accused a student of selling drugs based on pictures taken remotely via the laptop that was assigned to the student, although it had not been reported lost or stolen.

The incident could start making everyone wonder about information technology's role in protecting data and privacy. It begs the question: Who watches the watchers?

IT has the keys to all the sensitive data in your company. This includes not only payroll and personnel records, but also financial records, trade secrets and intellectual property, data regarding pending acquisitions, product launches or other strategic decisions. A rather scary thought if you don't trust your IT folks.

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How Technology Enhances Collaboration Wed 20 Jan 10

The unheralded benefit of tech collaboration: resolving disagreement.

Disagreement_tanakawhoPadmasree Warrior, Cisco's chief technology officer, wrote a thought- provoking blog post recently entitled "The Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise". While the NGCE label sounds like just another marketing package (Cisco is a hardware vendor, after all), Warrior's article is definitely worth reading.

One comment she makes almost as an aside is particularly noteworthy. "It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity," Warrior writes. So true, and so very well stated.

I would take this a step further and say that a prime role of technology in collaboration is to highlight and even foster disagreement. Rephrasing Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, I'll go as far as making the seemingly incongruous statement, "disagreement is good."

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Blogs are dead (or, are dying). Or are they? Wed 12 Aug 09

Blog_for_sale_john_weise My friend Jason Alba who owns JibberJobber (by the way a great career management tool) recently sent out a newsletter and asked the question "…let me know what you think about the following phrase: "Blogs are dead (or, are dying)."  Could blogs become obsolete?  On one side people say that Twitter and such will make them obsolete... on the other side there are too many blogs, and many of them plain junk. What do YOU, as a blogger, think?"

A great question and one I couldn't help but comment on. In one sense, I do think blogs are dying but in the same sense all other forms of communicating ideas are "dying".  Let me explain my reasoning.

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A True Error, Not a Glitch Tue 28 Jul 09

Baytown Mayor Admits Error In Release Of Banking Info

I've written recently about The Real Problem With Computer Glitches.  Computer glitches are when something goes wrong but we don't talk abut someone making a mistake or a bad process being used.  Something just happened without human intervention (yeh, right).  I followed that up with a comment an Another Glitch regarding Goveronor Scharzenegger and a computer glitch that kept a law student from taking the bar exam.

Red light camera warning fringehog Although I don't want to beat this subject to death I just have to comment about an article I saw in today's Houston Chronicle, Baytown releases banking info for 10,000 by mistake.  It seems that some how banking information about 10,000 people that paid tickets after being caught by a red light camera.  What was interesting was how this was portrayed. 

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Step Away From The Computer Wed 08 Jul 09

Don't Let Technology Inhibit Communication

Avatars brtsergio E-mail, instant messaging and social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter have dramatically changed the way we communicate. While technology has made communication easier, it hasn't necessarily improved the quality of our communication.

The reason: We can hide behind technology and avoid the human interaction that is essential for good communication. But this doesn't mean we should abandon our technology. Rather, we need to strike a moderated balance in our use of technology.

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Twitter's Dilemma Wed 10 Jun 09

Has the popular microblogging service become a victim of its own success?

Fail_whalestarted using Twitter five months ago with some reluctance. I wasn't sure if I'd like it or if I'd be willing to put up with the inane commentary. Since then, I've learned that Twitter is really about conversation that you can make as trivial or serious as you desire. I've even suggested that Twitter has a place in the corporate world.

Although I still see the value in Twitter, I am beginning to wonder about its long-term viability. Twitter is growing exponentially and has reported an astounding 1,382% year-over-year growth. This growth has, however, apparently caused scalability issues and may also cover up some disturbing trends that could adversely impact its long-term user base and possibilities for monetization.

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Writing policies with an attitude Wed 27 May 09

The_Law_smlpcouk I received an email the other day that was offering to sell me pre-written IT policies to use rather than writing them from scratch.  Using a template may be a good way to develop policies as long you review them carefully and adjust them for your particular situation.

But I'm not writing about policies.   Although I think we in IT sometimes have too many policies for the wrong reasons I'm really all in favor of them and I also support the idea of enforcing them.  With that behind us I wanted to point out what really got me about the way this particular company decided to market their product to IT people.

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Trainers or Knowledge Facilitators? Wed 25 Mar 09

Changing Our Approach Can Make A Big Difference

Last week I was listening to a story on NPR and it caught my attention.  It was about the Washington, DC school district and the things they are doing to improve things.  What caught my attention was a quote for a principal about the attitude toward teaching, specifically, "I taught it, they didn't learn it, it's on them." 

I made a quick post on this and didn't think much more about it.  As sometimes happens I was surprised to find this little post got more attention than I expected.  And as also sometimes happens I received a comment that is better than the post itself.  The post was via Facebook from blog designer, Dave Weiss and that's what I'd like to discuss in this post.

First, it would be good if you read the post in question that generated the comment to put things in context.  Go ahead, it's a short post, it won't take long.  I'll wait here until you get back.

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Words Matter Tue 18 Nov 08

Written_or_spoken_christy_b_2I ran across an interesting article, "Lighten Up On Language"  by Ellen Perlman.  What made it interesting for me was that Perlman talks about one of my favorite topics - the words we use to communicate.  Perhaps I should say it talks about how the words we use hinder our communications.

As she points out, "Language matters. It shapes how people interpret concepts — or whether they think about them at all. And whether, in a serendipitous elevator ride with a mayor or governor, a CIO could quickly make his or her case."  I couldn't agree more.

Perlman wrote her article for Governing.com and therefore naturally talks with public policy experts.  Interestingly enough she quotes an expert that illustrates how some words can dull your message through two example words commonly used in government: infrastructure and architecture.  Two examples that also have meaning in the IT world.  As Perlman explains:

"Using a big word as shorthand doesn't advance a technology department's cause with non-technologists, who draw a blank when they try to apply architecture to something digital."

Technical jargon and acronyms may be efficient and precise when talking with other IT people but when conversing with not-IT folks it is unhelpful.  Specifically, it can drive people away from our message.

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