BYOT - Encouraging CIOs to BYOB

Well, maybe it won't drive you to drink, but you may want to locate the headache pills.

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or the consumerization of technology is currently a very active item in the technology blogs. This trend was forecast by Gartner Group and others at least 3 years ago, indicating that by 2010 over one half of endpoint technology decisions would be made by the end user.

The rising capabilities of smart phones, tablets, and other devices have made them infinitely more productive for users than the 4 year old company assigned laptop computer. Couple that with an overwhelming onslaught of advertising encouraging everyone from your boss to your grandmother to go out and get one of these things along with an increased expectation that this will "just work" on your network, it is no wonder that CIOs and IT Directors are wringing their hands about this catastrophic lack of control.

But is losing control such a bad thing?

Just in case you think that I've substituted the ASA for PCP, let me explain.


The 2 things that drive organizational change

I'm going to let you in on a secret.

In all my years of helping organizations implement significant change, there was always one of two factors present when the entire organization would rise to the challenge to bring about change.

I'm not talking about a minor change.

I'm talking about redirecting resources, changing project schedules, and adopting a new operational model. I'm talking permanent, lasting change.

As an IT leader who is expected to be an agent of change, wouldn't it be useful to know what these factors are?


Hurricanes, Floods, and other Disasters.

I live in South Central Ontario.

What that means is while millions of people were preparing for the onset of Hurricane Irene, I was mowing my lawn.

We were not in the path of the beast.
Image: www.NASA.gov


We are our own worst enemy.

In my last post I discussed how I fell victim to Impostor Syndrome, and how I eventually dealt with it.

The response to the topic (mostly on Twitter) was great.

I learned a lot.


Impostor Syndrome

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Several years ago, back when I had hair, I attended a conference in Colorado.

The fact that I had hair meant I was just starting out in my career and had lots to learn.  I was young, and impressionable.

The fact that the conference was in Colorado meant it was a two hour time difference from where I lived.  Which meant that my body hadn't adjusted to the time zone yet and  I was up very early in the morning.

There was one other person in the hotel restaurant at 6am - the keynote speaker from the night before.  He invited me to join him at his table.

This gentleman was highly renowned in the world of computer aided design (CAD). He was also a PhD level scientist with some impressive research under his belt, and although he seemed ancient at the time, he was likely in his mid forties.  I was sitting with one impressive, experienced person who's portfolio of experience was a treasure for me.  I knew I could learn from him, I just didn't expect the lesson I got, which impacted me for years.


iPads in our school? Not quite yet.

Image: Apple.com
Everyone seems to be excited about iPads and other tablet computers (with the possible exception of HP). They are a great personal extension to the internet.   I was recently forwarded the results of a survey done by Staples who (surprise) found people are thrilled with tablets and one of the benefits of having a tablet is that it allowed a number of the survey respondents to have a better work/life balance.

Coincidentally, Staples happens to sell tablets. I am sure the survey results were unbiased. :)

So what about tablets in education?


Don't Read This Post!!!

You are instructed not to read this post.  Reading this post will result in the most severe penalties known to IT personnel - from restrictions on your Internet access, constant monitoring of YOUR Internet activity, to not being allowed to speak, message or even think of things that do not pertain to your job.

Repeat offenders will have the most dire of consequences - the substitution of tofu in your diet to replace bacon.

If you made it this far in the post, you are a rebel (like 99% of the working population) and likely knew I could threaten you with all kinds of evil and vile things but would have absolutely no way to enforce these rules.  You are smart enough to figure that out, so why do you think differently of your users, or if you are a manager, your team?

I have come into two organizations where the "rule book", A.K.A. the "IT policy manual" is filled with arcane rules that could not ever be enforced.  These rules typically fell into one of two categories.  They were created when "somebody" abused common sense (e.g. calling home to their overseas parents on a daily basis from their work phone) and instead of reprimanding the person, they created a rule (i.e. NO personal phone calls!).

The second category of rules are the ones created for the sheer benefit of the IT team, not the end user. (e.g. NO service if you don't jump through several hoops, I don't care if your monitor is on fire!).

There are a third category of policies and processes that are legitimate, but they tend to get lost in the "silly" rules.

There is hope.


#10/10 Copious, Continuous, Infectious Passion - Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO -

This is the last article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

street musician
Photo: (c) Maarten Jan Bos  - Flikr.com

Perhaps this should have been the first posting in this series.

Leadership without passion is not leadership.

It is mechanical. It can be efficient but it will never, ever embolden a team to do great things.

People follow a leader because they choose to, not because they have to.

One of the greatest skills any leader can demonstrate is a deep, genuine passion for achieving great things by empowering the people around him or her.

I've mentioned before that I play guitar. I've been playing a long time and have had the privilege of playing with some very talented musicians.  The most talented people I have played music with, share one common trait - an unbridled, copious, continuous, infectious passion for creating music.

They would seek out opportunities to play - even if no one was there to listen. They just had to do it.

Like the street musician in the photo.

It's obviously cold outside (note the gloves), but look at the smile on his face.

I can identify.  In my earlier days I can remember my bandmates and I loading a ton of sound equipment into our cars, driving for over an hour, setting up the gear, just for the opportunity to play a few songs.  We then had to disassemble the equipment, pack it up and drive home.  This didn't count the hours of practice needed to prepare.

Either we were nuts. Or we were passionate about what we did.

I love hanging around with passionate musicians. They make me want to be a better musician.

They believe the world is a better place because of music. They help me believe it too.

Their passion is infectious. Time spent with them causes me to grow.

Do people grow around you when you express your passion?


#9/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Creativity

This is the ninth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

"Some men see things as they are and say "why?" 
I dream things that never were and say "why not?"
— Robert F. Kennedy

Margaret Atwood
Image: Wikipedia
In my file drawer I have a letter from Margaret Atwood.

If you are not from Canada, you may not have been made to read her books in high school not have an appreciation for her proclivity to produce best selling novels or books of poetry, or her passionate stance on social and environmental issues. Check out the Wikipedia page here. You will be impressed.

Margaret has been creative in the writing space for a long time. But that's not why I'm highlighting her in this post on creativity, or why I have a letter from her in my file.

One of the banes (or joys) of being a best selling author is the 'book tour'. Since Margaret had so many best selling books, she had a lot of touring to do.  For those of you who spend much time on the road living out of a suitcase, you know that the 'exotic' part of travel disappears rather quickly and being at home eating a peanut butter sandwich is about the best place in the world you can think of.

The story goes (and I believe it since I heard it directly from Margaret's son Matthew Gibson) that one day the courier stopped at Margaret's house to deliver a package.  Instead of a clipboard, he handed her his handheld device to sign.  The idea of signing something electronically and still having it be a valid, legal signature impressed Margaret. But here's where the story gets interesting and may get Matthew in trouble since I'm not sure how many people have heard this version.


#8/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Current

This is the eigth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

You are the head of technology for a large organization.

What you might find behind the podium.
Image: Courtesy ElectronicHouse.com
You are in the annual meeting for your company at an offsite location with the other members of the executive team.

The guest speaker comes to the podium.  There is an awkward silence.

He can't get the presentation on the screen.

Suddenly, every eye in the room is on you.

"Well!!??" the piercing glazes say. "Aren't you going to fix it?"  "You are the IT person!".

You move to the front of the room, having never seen the particular podium setup in this hotel before. "Step one..." you mutter to yourself... "Turn it off and back on..." (Insider Secret Revealed!: This fixes 80% of the problems, and you look like a hero).


How to Write Good. (Updated)

Image: MS Office Imagebank

I've recently blogged about communication skills as a critical resource for today's leader. (That post is here.)

Along with all the other facets of communication (verbal, non-verbal, visual, etc.) effective writing is a foundational element.  Nothing loses a reader faster than bad writing.

Years ago, before Al Gore invented the Internet, a list of rules made the rounds through fax, photocopy, and word of mouth.

 I was able to find a complete list of them here.

Consider this a guest post for your edification. Here they are for your reading (and learning) pleasure.

#7/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Community Builder

This is the seventh article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

Take a look at your office chair.

Is it well worn?

Is it familiar?

Do you spend most of your day sitting in it?

If so, then I would suggest that you need to work on this next survival skill - community building.

It's time to write your office chair a 'Dear John' letter.


Unbiased to all but Excellence - Part 1

If you have been following my blog, you know I have been developing a series of posts on the 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO.  Today I'm taking a break from the series to muse.

Bias, one of the seven sages of Greece
Clipart: Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse

"Unbiased to all but excellence and achieving my goals".

I read a lot.  And when I say a 'lot', I mean a 'LOT'. So I likely read this quote somewhere.

If you are the originator of this phrase... thank you.... and curse you.

It's been haunting me.

Maybe it came from Aristotle who said "We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."

But then perhaps it's been a series of recent experiences and news items where personal biases overshadowed and derailed some very worthwhile initiatives because they didn't line up with someone's personal dogma, belief system or personal comfort.  (Note: I'm not talking about religious/faith based observances or critical life situations... I'm talking about hubris, selfishness, and fear.)


#6/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Connector

This is the sixth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

Image: Wikipedia

You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it.
You must learn to see the world anew

Albert Einstein

In a former life, I started a consulting company.

In those early day, many of the thoughts and musings I share in this blog were in their infancy, but I knew then that solutions to the thorniest problems always existed, they just had to be discovered.

And in most cases, the solution was a composite of information, ideas, data, experiences from a wide variety of people, across all facets of the organization.  IT or Engineering didn't have the corner on the market.

I gave my new company a rather bizarre name - Synectics Technologies. (That's pronounced SIN-ECK-TICKS... I've since learned that you should really choose something pronounceable for your company name, but I digress).  In spite of the marble-mouth symptom in trying to say it,  the name was perfect because of its meaning:

According to Dictionary.Com, synectics is "the study of creative processes, especially as applied to the solution of problems by a group of diverse individuals."

Given that I've named all the other competencies in this series with descriptors starting with the letter "C", I couldn't call this skill "synectics".  Besides, you'd never remember it, and would have an even harder time pronouncing it.

The competency of today's post is Connector.


#5/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Conceptualization

This is the fifth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

Image: MS Office Imagebank

“John Chambers says to me:
‘Your job is to think of what I think
before I think of it,
and have it ready to go
when I think of it.’”
—Rebecca Jacoby - CIO, Cisco Systems

If you are a Chief Information Officer and are only dealing with operational issues and next year's IT plan, then you have the wrong title.  Director of IT would be more appropriate.

If you like the title, then you need to add some new skills to your portfolio.

There are a lot of CIOs who have the title but are never called on to envision the future, to gather together the trends and cut through the chaff to define a vision of how technology can be leveraged to gain strategic advantage for their organizations.  And they have to do this while running a highly effective IT operation.

The competency of today's post is... Conceptualization.

Do you need an IT Vision statement?

Image: MS Office Imagebank

In a word... absolutely.

In preparing for the next post in the series 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO, I was researching for the post on the competency of conceptualization - the art of seeing the things that could be, even if they don't exist yet.  (I'm not talking about clairvoyance, I'm talking about a creative, innovative, networked mind at work)

This is not that post, but an 'pre'-dendum to that post.


#4/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Corporate Contributor

This is the fourth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.


Image: Still shot from the Alfred Hitchcock movie: Lifeboat
We've all face them.   Choosing the type of car you can afford vs. the type of car you want. Choosing a life partner. Choosing a thick juicy steak over tofu (Wait! there's no choice there!)

As leaders, we sometimes find ourselves making difficult choices that have profound impact on other people.

We can't be in charge only when times are good.

Which projects are delayed? Or cut?

If things get tough enough, the choices may get harder.

You have to reduce your team size.  Who do you pick?

Side note: If the thought of doing this makes you incredibly uncomfortable, that means you are human.  If you could never, ever let someone go, then you should not aspire to be a senior leader.  There are times you will need to do this.  It comes with the territory. On the flip side... If you can let people go and it doesn't bother you, then I would suggest you are missing a key element of leadership - empathy.

Philosophy classes over the years have loved to present these ethical dilemmas - the most famous of which is the "Lifeboat Dilemma". Who stays? Who goes?

Here's a wrinkle in this scenario.

Sometimes the person with the dilemma is not you.  It's the person you report to.  If they were faced with operational cuts, would you or your department survive?  Especially with all the Cloud vendors hawking the increased performance and reduced costs that the cloud will bring? (Disclaimer - this is marketing rhetoric, not my opinion).

I would suggest that your personal and organizational survival are based on one key metric - value.  And by value I mean the contribution you and your team make to the overall corporate goals and objectives.

So the competency of today's post is... Corporate Contributor.


#3/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Collaboration

This is the third article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.

"No man is an island unto himself, every man is a part of the whole." 
- John Donne

When I started my new role as CIO at a large college, I spent time meeting with other executives in order to introduce myself and find out from their perspective how the IT department had provided services.

I was somewhat shocked when the theme of many of the answers came back something like this - "IT folks are nice people, but I'm not really sure what they do".

Many saw us as a large budget, and a huge team (over 100), and while they liked us as people, they weren't sure we needed the large budget, or the large team. (This is not comforting coming from the CFO)

A secondary theme of the answers was "IT couldn't help us do what we need, so we are doing it ourselves."  Two of the departments in the school had formed their own shadow IT departments.

This was a marked contrast to the excellent innovation, creativity and world class implementation of hardware, software and systems I saw when I interviewed my new team.

Where was the disconnect?

I thought long and hard about it...The answer?... "IT does not play well with others".

Today's post is about - collaboration.


It's 11 pm. Do you know where your power button is? (Repost)

I've decided to repost this in honour of Isabel, our pug, who experienced several hours of "off leash" time yesterday - meaning she escaped and we had no idea of where she was last night. We called the Oakville Humane Society immediately and let them know she was missing. They called this morning saying they had her. A special thanks to the kind neighbour who found Isabel and called them.

I blame this post on our dog. In her blissfully ignorant world, she doesn't care that yesterday was a long day and that today appears to be heading in the same direction. She isn't involved in preparing next year's budget that will require several presentations to the executive and board. She has no clue how busy and important I am.

She does however know that her food dish was empty at 6:00 this morning, and that if she had thumbs, she could probably have let herself out. But the only tool she has is a well practiced whimper that for some reason, I am the only one in our house who actually hears it.

So I had time to think this morning while waiting for the dog to do her business. "Why am I always so tired in the morning?" I found myself thinking. Technically, I have enough hours in bed, but am not rested. I then remembered some recent books and articles on why I need to build good sleep into my life if I want to achieve optimal performance as an IT leader. So yes, there is a link to this week's topic...on strategy.


#2/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Communication

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Based on the scars and callouses I`ve earned in my career, and combined with the experiences of colleagues who have been highly effective in leading IT teams, I've distilled a list of the 10 competencies which are critical for IT leaders (CIOs, Directors) as well as anyone else in leadership in today's globally focussed, results driven environment. 

Note: These postings are intentionally short. They are designed to stimulate additional thinking and conversation. I'll unpack these ideas further in subsequent postings, as well as incorporate any comments you may add to the mix.

Without these competencies in action, IT leaders risk being relegated to the unrewarding mission of controlling costs, or watching IT services being outsourced (yes, that is still happening) to an IT provisioning company, or having your end users continually bypass your department and contracting for software, services and infrastructure in the cloud.

This is the second in the series on 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. Today`s topic is communication.

#1/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Competence

Image: MS Office Image Bank
My dog Isabel and I are alike in the fact that neither of us enjoys eating tofu, and neither of us can remember too many things at once.

In her case, it is only one thing at a time. Her list goes like this: Food / Walk / Poop / Sleep / Play / Repeat. Occasionally a squirrel shows up which totally reboots her focus and she has to start all over again.

In my case, I do really well with useless trivia (What do you call it when bricks start crumbling? - Spalling See what I mean? ). I have more of a challenge with long lists of facts, or minutia of detailed documents.

This forces me to develop systems to remember things, and I do very well in synthesizing complex things down to a series of triggers that let me remember more details. As such, I'm a big fan of short lists, quotes, anecdotes, and stories. I remember these things well, and they in turn trigger, or unpack more and more details.

Which gets me around to the point of this post.


People Who Love Sausage and Respect the Law...

Photo: K.Pashuk - Taken from atop the Washington Monument

... should never watch either one being made.

This quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Otto Bismark, and a number of other sources.  Regardless of the source, I was reminded of the quote during a vacation trip to Washington DC last week.

We went for the museums and the history, and were delighted with the experience.

We also took the opportunity to visit the seat of power in the US, the Capitol building.  If you've never visited this magnificent building, make sure it is on your bucket list.

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to get passes to see the House in session.

Given the magnitude of the debt crisis, we thought it would be great to see the debate... to see how the politicians handled this current crisis, in the same room as the other historic debates of US history.

When we finally cleared security and were let into the House chamber, we were surprised, and disappointed.