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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Why E-Commerce Still Isn’t Easy To Do Wed 10 Nov 10

Recognizing the difference of the Internet is key to online sales success

Shopping Cart Misshap Wiedmaier Doing business over the Internet, whether B2C or B2B, is not the same as the traditional pre-Internet methods.   I’m sure the typical response to this is “well, duh!”  That simple statement is taken as a given by most people.

Amazingly there are still people and businesses that haven’t grasped this seemingly simple concept.  The most recent example was when I ordered a meal to be delivered to my workplace for a late meeting.  I dutifully collected everyone’s selection, went to the website and entered my account information along with the credit card details.

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Making IT Better For Customers Wed 27 Oct 10

Three things to keep in mind when designing applications.

IT spends a lot of time trying to improve our system and the user interface, especially when they will be used by our external customers. Most of the time, we're pretty good at delivering easy-to-use applications. However, I recently came across two examples of how our systems can impact customer perception even when the customer doesn't use them, or when it is a minor utility application.

Headache powders crunchcandy

The first example was when I renewed two prescriptions. The pharmacy I use is a large national chain. It has online prescription renewal, and everything went smoothly. Shortly before I picked them up, I received an automated phone message that one of the prescriptions was delayed. This was a little off-putting since the pharmacy didn't say which one was delayed. It also struck me as strange that it ran out, as both were very common prescriptions.

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SIMposium2010 Sun 10 Oct 10

Simposium2010 I'm not a big fan of IT conferences.  For the most part you're just paying for the privilege of attending a vendor sales pitch.  I don't like the free ones and certainly see no need to pay for one.

The one thing that is nice about the conference is the opportunity to meet other practitioners and discuss topics of interests openly and to learn from each other.  When I have gone to conferences this is the factor that draws me in.

I've been a member of SIM (Society for Information Management) for about 10 years but have never bothered to attend their annual conference for the reasons mentioned above.  However, as I became the president of the Houston Chapter of SIM I thought I should attend to see what it was all about - so last week I was in Atlanta for SIMposium2010.

 All I can say is - boy, was I wrong about judging this one.  SIMposium2010 was fantastic!  Although there are vendors there it is not just one big sales pitch.  The vendors are limited in number and there is no hard selling.

As I mentioned the one thing I do like is being able to meet other practitioners.  SIMposium was great for this as it is designed by and for senior IT leaders.  Because of this you have a great opportunity to discuss issues with people that are in similar situations as you and they understand the problems and opportunities you meet on a daily basis.  The panel discussions in particular were very good as they had a lot of open and frank discussion among both panel members and the audience.

My only regret about SIMposium is that I waited so long to attend.  I met a lot of great people and made some good friends.  I'm looking forward to next year's conference in Orlando.  I hope to see you there.

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How IT Can Give Better Presentations Wed 15 Sep 10

Cut out jargon and focus on helping, not limiting, customers.

Swimlane_flowchart_ivan_walsh

IT has long sought to be considered a partner to the other business leaders in our companies. It's all part of our pursuit of the holy grail of "having a seat at the table."

Naturally, getting there means we have to promote our ideas, explain technology concepts and communicate our plans. In today's world that also means we use a lot of PowerPoint presentations.

Sadly, IT doesn't have a reputation for giving great business presentations. In the world of death by PowerPoint, IT guys are ninjas.

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Why IT Must Embrace Facebook, Twitter, iPhone Wed 01 Sep 10

Consumer technologies are infiltrating the corporate world. Learn to leverage them.

Brave New World alles-schlumpf I like TED. TED is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to "Ideas Worth Spreading." They have conferences where they bring together thought leaders from the world of technology, entertainment and design (hence the acronym).

The great thing about TED is that for those of us who don't actually get to attend its conferences, the talks are posted on its website. The downside is that there is a lot to see and you can spend a lot of time there. (Or is that an upside?)

That is why I was happy to see an article by John Brandon, 8 must-see TED talks for IT pros, where he's found some talks about interesting new technologies that should interest IT professionals. Brandon doesn't just list the talks but also reviews them and has some consumer analysts give a "reality check" on how ideas such as this come to market.

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Lessons From Apple's 'Antennagate' Wed 21 Jul 10

Sometimes how you handle a problem is more important than the solution.

IPhone 4 bumper Yutaka TsutanoLast week Steve Jobs addressed the antenna issues of the iPhone 4, the so-called "antennagate."

The "-gate" suffix is rather illustrative. The original "gate, Watergate, started out with what is commonly called a two-bit burglary and ended up bringing down a president. Nixon wasn't forced to resign because of the burglary but because of how it was handled and what it revealed.

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Where's My Flying Car? Wed 07 Jul 10

Unlike futurists, IT has to deliver on its possibilities.

Flying car marcus_jb1973 Massachusetts based Terrafugia, Inc. recently announced that it has successfully completed its flight test program for its "Flying Car." Terrafugia hopes to have the first delivery of its beta prototype in 2011.

While Terrafugia's endeavor may very well be successful, it won't be what we felt we were "promised" by all those earnest futurists back in the 1950s up through the dawn of the space age. I'm not knocking Terrafugia. I applaud their efforts.

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Ending Apple's AT&T Problem Wed 23 Jun 10

Steve Jobs needs to get other phone carriers on board--fast.

The Apple-AT&T partnership for the iPhone and iPad hasn't gone exactly as well as planned. AT&T has stumbled more than once. Most recently, there have been problems with iPhone 4 order fulfillment, including indications that customers' private data was exposed to other customers, iPad e-mail addresses were hacked and the on-going problem with dropped calls.

Arguably, some of these problems resulted from the surge of demand when the iPhone 4 came out, but it shouldn't have been unexpected, given the experience with prior product launches. Couple all of this with Verizon's very effective "map" ads, and it's clear that AT&T is not in a good place right now in terms of marketplace perception.

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