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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The IT Security Balancing Act Wed 17 Feb 10

Ultimately, IT is responsible for security breaches even if it's not at fault.


Late last year, Plano, Texas-based Hillary Machinery lost $800,000 to cyber theft when attackers stole the money in a series of transfers from Hillary's PlainsCapital bank account. PlainsCapital was subsequently able to recover about $600,000.

As you might expect, Hillary demanded that PlainsCapital repay the unrecovered funds, saying PlainsCapital didn't provide adequate security measures. Up to this point, there is nothing especially noteworthy about this situation. Sad to say, but cyber theft just isn't all that unusual anymore.

However, what happened next has gotten a lot of attention beyond just west Texas.  PlainsCapital is suing Hillary Machinery, the victim!

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Apple: Less Hype, Better Products Wed 03 Feb 10

The company needs to focus more on solid marketing and product development.

WizardOfOzApple's long anticipated launch of the iPad became a rather interesting twist in the Apple/Steve Jobs saga, and it may signal a shift in the future of Apple.

After all the hype and hysteria of the iPhone roll-outs, everyone was expecting true magic. However, despite Jobs' proclamation of the iPad being "magical," the general response was a rather dismayed, "That's it?" It was something of a letdown as Apple fed our expectations and did nothing to dampen all the speculation.

It reminds me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her friends stand quaking with fear in the great hall intimidated by the billowing flames, booming voice and majestic presence. Only when her dog Toto pulled open the curtain and exposed Oz as a mere mortal did reality sink in. The Wizard's exhortation of "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" was too late. His secret was out. And so it may be for Jobs and Apple. However, in the end this could be beneficial for Apple.

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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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IT: It's Not Just About Technical Skills Wed 11 Nov 09

Why interpersonal skills may be more important now.

While perusing the online versions of some of the more well-know information technology journals recently, I was surprised to find one that had quite a few stories on the stupidity of users. While these stories ostensibly were presented as humor, they also represent a dark side of IT behavior: The IT guys really are the smartest guys in the room, and users are dumb and annoying.

A closer reading of some of the stories shows the fallacy of this: Users were having problems, and the IT person was more concerned with showing his superiority than in providing customer service. This type of stereotypical behavior has long been an impediment to IT's success and acceptance in the corporate world.

The good news is that this attitude among IT workers isn't nearly as prevalent as it used to be. We've made great strides in improving customer service. These stories, however, show that our job is not complete. There is more to do.

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IT's Business Lesson Wed 28 Oct 09

Learning how the business side works can yield better IT systems and service.

Different Approaches To Time I just returned from a week of vacation in London, which was fun as always. The great thing about being an American in London is that it forces you to rethink a lot of things. This ranges from driving on the other side of the road (I hope my U.K. friends appreciate that I did not say the "wrong" side of the road) to fries being chips and chips being crisps and so on. Many things seem the same--but not quite.

Obviously the British have no difficulty with these things. It's second nature to them, it's their culture. It is only those new to their way of doing things who have to adjust. This is the same feeling many of our users experience whenever we roll out or modify a system. We roll out systems, processes and programs that perform adequately but somehow never feel natural to our users.

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PC Makers’ Unrequited Love Tue 29 Sep 09

Why Dell and Xerox are going after services companies.

Recently hardware firms Dell, HP and Xerox made a flurry of announcements about combining selling hardware and providing technology consulting services.  Dell said it would acquire Perot Systems for $3.9 billion. HP's announced it will re-brand consulting firm Electronic Data Systems as HP Enterprise Services. Not to be outdone, Xerox said this week that it’s buying Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for $6.4 billion.

There may be some sound logic behind the Dell and HP moves, but frankly I just don't see it. Judging from how the stock market reacted to Dell's announcement, I may not be alone. Xerox's move does however present an interesting opportunity.

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Making Exceptions to IT Rules - Follow-up Thu 17 Sep 09

Comments And Links On "Making Exceptions To IT Rules"

The great thing about writing a blog is the comments you receive and the discussion that ensues.  Often this is better than the original post.

Such is the case with my last post, Making Exceptions to IT Rules. So far I've received 3 comments and they are fantastic! Each one makes an excellent point(s) and is well worth going back and reading. They are so great that I wanted to highlight them and recommend that you read them.

In addition, Chris Peters provided some links to a new way of thinking about PC deployment that can help break the paradigm of a "standard" PC. Peter Thompson, provided a link to a video from TED of Barry Schwartz talking about "our loss of wisdom" which decrys the blind obedience to standards.

These comments are well worth going back to the post to read them.

Thanks to Doug Goldberg, Chris Peters and Peter Thompson.

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Making Exceptions To IT Rules Wed 16 Sep 09

Treating standards as absolutes can be counterproductive.

IT folks often see things as a choice of two absolutes. It suits our way of thinking. It may have started with the days of binary coding where everything was either a 1 or a 0 and only a 1 or a 0. We like the simplicity and elegance of only having a choice between 1 or 0, right or wrong, yes or no, black or white. This black or white perspective would be nice if it could truly be achieved, but the hard truth is that we live in a gray world where absolutes are rare.

So we write our policies and develop our standards. We make them iron clad and air tight. And then inevitably comes an exception. One of the vice presidents at your company wants a special cellphone or new style of laptop. Or perhaps it's an engineer wanting to purchase a new software package that IT hasn't approved.

After a lot back and forth, we may give in begrudgingly or hold fast and have a customer grumble about the poor customer service. Either way we do a slow burn and say to no one in particular, "Don't they know what we're trying to do? Don't they understand we have standards?" The simple answer is "No, they don't."

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Avoiding The IT Death Spiral Wed 02 Sep 09

Four Tips For Better IT Budgeting

Many pundits are indicating the economy has hit bottom and we are starting to come out of the recession. I don't know if this is true, but I certainly hope so. At the same time, no one seems to expect a rapid climb back, which means controlling costs will remain an important factor in our operations.

Death_spiral_glovsky225As you prepare your budgets for next year, you'll no doubt go through many iterations. You may start out with plans for new systems only to be told to come back with a budget that stays flat. Top management doesn't like what it's getting for their money--or believes it is out of sync with what the company is trying to do. Or management may simply not understand IT, and so demand you lower your costs. To appease top management, you produce a number of different plans that include more and more cost reductions.

Budgeting this way, however, can easily lead to a classic death spiral. We dutifully reduce our costs by cutting services where we think prudent; this leads to more dissatisfaction and more demands for reduced costs--and so on and so on, until the cost that is ultimately reduced is you.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this.

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