The Tyranny of Rules Tue 06 Mar 12

Rules are meant to be an means to an objective not an end unto themselves.

Caution tyranny ahead charlesfettingerThis past week, Beren Acadamy, an Modern Orthodox Jewish high school made the headlines when they advanced to the semifinals in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) basketball tournament.  What made this especially newsworthy wasn’t their basketball prowess (as good as they are) but the fact that they decided to forfeit rather than play in a game scheduled during the Jewish Sabbath, a remarkable demonstration of staying true to your religious beliefs.

Beren had appealed to the TAPPS board for an accommodation to reschedule the time that would not conflict with anyone’s religious beliefs.  The board pointed out that Beren was made aware of the potential conflict when they joined the league years ago and denied the request for an accommodation.  Berens admitted that they knew of the scheduling issued but had hoped for an accommodation based upon their religious beliefs.

TAPPS issued a statement that says in part “When TAPPS was organized in the late 1970's, the member schools at that time all recognized Sunday as the day of worship.   The By-Laws were written to state that “TAPPS would not schedule any competition or activities on Sunday”.  At that time, there were no member schools that observed their Sabbath on Saturday.”  They statement goes on to explain that Beren was aware of this and didn’t see a problem as they wanted to play in a ‘district’.

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What Sarbanes-Oxley, Lawyers, and Auditors Really Mean for IT Wed 24 Nov 10

Don't rely on a "higher authority" to justify your policies and procedures

A lot of IT folks routinely invoke a higher authority as justification of why we have to do something or a policy can't be changed.  This "higher authority" is usually included in one of 3 tried and true excuses:

  • We have to do that to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • The lawyers say we have to do that.
  • The auditors make us do that.

Question authority curiousyellow That bumper sticker from the late '70s urging us to "Question Authority" may have been right all along.  In reality those 3 reasons are just spurious excuses, not valid reasons for doing something.  Although the "required" action may actually be the right thing to do, citing an excuse such as one of these is wrong for a number of reasons.

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CIOs: Stop Ignoring Social Media Wed 03 Mar 10

CIOs and IT leaders need to promote social media or risk becoming marginalized.

Social_media_iconsI recently attended a panel discussion of four CIOs put on by a major IT research firm and found the exchange on social media interesting. In addition to the CIO of the research firm, there was representation by both the private and public sector.

The moderator asked if the panelists allowed open access to social media sites and if they had a policy in place governing the use of social media. I was pleased to hear all of the panelists respond "yes" to both.

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Saying Why Is A Powerful Tool Wed 01 Jul 09

Adding An Explanation For Our Policies Can Improve Their Effectiveness

Ten commandments robeena Most IT policies are written like the Ten Commandments.  Thou Shalt Not…  Thou Shalt Not…  Thou Shalt Not…  When you read them you almost expect them to be accompanied by a roll of thunder and a flash of lightning as the rules are laid down by the IT god.

Sometimes a more enlightened IT department will write policies in a more positive fashion.  Instead of Thou Shalt Not… they write it as Thou Shall… 

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What IT Needs To Give Up Wed 24 Jun 09

The best IT governance in tough times involves giving up some control--and a lot of information

Dont just say no cheerfulmonk Balancing requests for more services has always been a challenge but it is especially tough during tough economic times when adding more resource is no longer an option. It is in situations like this when the word "no" can be very powerful.

This may seem contradictory to my previous suggestions that IT should put more effort into saying yes but it really isn't.  The concept of saying yes is about finding ways to help rather than looking for reasons why you can't help, why something can't be done or why something won't work. I still think we should look for ways to say yes in that context.

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Guiding Principles For IT Wed 06 May 09

If you need me I'll be there.

Jules_Verne_pocketwatch_compass_nullalax While going through some old papers the other day I came across something I'd written about 15 years ago in my first IT role.  It was a statement of Guiding Principles for IT that I used to let my employees and the users of IT how we intended to perform our role.  I patterned it off of what I had seen at a non-IT service provider and I was impressed by its simplicity, clarity and straightforward approach.

I re-read this very carefully and it still rings true for me now just as it did 15 years ago.  Even though I have not posted this in my new role (now that I've found it again I just might), it is still the way I like to operate.  It has many of the elements of a mission statement but it is more about how we do our business, truly guiding principles.  Take a look at it.  I'd love to hear what you think of it.

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What Obama's CTO Should Do Wed 26 Nov 08

Here's a list of issues to focus on, including data security and growing our tech workforce.

President-elect Obama's announcement the he will appoint the country's first chief technology officer (CTO) has caught the attention of the IT world. It has a lot of people excited and has generated a lot of speculation over who he might name as the nation's first CTO. I think this is a great start, but I hope the new CTO takes advantage of the opportunity and expands on his defined role.

The brief job description states that the role of the CTO is "to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an inter-agency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices."

As defined, the CTO's role is focused internally, concerned primarily with the mechanics of IT--the hardware and software. This isn't surprising given that Silicon Valley was a big Obama supporter--the same Silicon Valley that sold us all that expensive hardware and software that would (supposedly) miraculously solve all of our problems. No doubt Valley companies are hoping for similar opportunities with the new administration; they have probably been using this to push their agendas.

Achieving the CTO's goals will be difficult. We've seen a number of government agencies try this unsuccessfully in the past at great cost. Government bureaucracies are very resistant to change, and if changes are not done properly, we may end up combining a number of fragmented bureaucracies into a new one that is even more bloated and inefficient. But for anyone that has had to deal with the government, I'm sure any progress is welcome.

Rather that focusing solely on the internal mechanics, I'd suggest that the new CTO focus externally on some strategic IT issues facing the country. As in the corporate world, the new CTO could fall into the trap of thinking that running the IT operations efficiently is the critical measure of success. While important, the real measure should be "value" (addressing strategic issues) moreso than "cost management" (efficiencies and best practices).

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An IT Question: What Do You Expect From The Project Sponsor? Mon 28 Jul 08

Help_cobber99Occasionally I turn the tables and ask you the readers for you input and since it has been awhile since I've done that this seems like a good time.  Here's the scenario--

A major IT project for the Sales department is about to kick-off.  You stop by to talk with the with the VP, Sales about it and the dialog goes something like this.

VP, Sales - My team has told me they are excited to finally get this project going.  We've been wanting it for a long time.  We really expect to see a lot of benefit from this.

You - I'm glad to hear that.  As you're the Project Sponsor we really appreciate your help in getting this done.

VP, Sales - I'm behind this a 1,000%!  You can count on me.  Make sure to let me know when it is done I'd like to host a congratulatory dinner for everyone on the team.

You - Well I truly appreciate your support but we need more than that.  Your active participation is required if we want this to be successful.

VP, Sales - Oh.  (significant pause)  What exactly is it you want me to do?

You - . . .

How do you respond?  What do you expect your executive project sponsors to do?  What is their responsibility?

"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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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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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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