Two Things You Can Learn From a Stupid Commercial

Image: Via YouTube
Years ago, there was a schmaltzy commercial on television where one person gnawing on a chocolate bar the size of a refrigerator collided into another person who happened to be eating straight from the largest jar of peanut butter you've ever seen.

Their serendipitous accident showed us unknowing masses how delightful the combination of peanut butter and chocolate could be, and that you could conveniently buy a pack of peanut butter cups rather than run around the town with a big jar of peanut butter hoping to bump into someone.

While I don’t for a moment believe that the commercial was ‘based on a true story’, I do see it having two important teachings for IT leaders.


You Had One Job...

Image Source: www.meonuk.com
I’m not sure if you are into memes, but there is one that pops up occasionally on my Facebook page that more often than not brings a chuckle.  It’s called “You had one job!” and is usually accompanied by a picture that shows something completely screwed up.  You can get a glimpse of this meme at www.hadonejob.com

If you clicked on the link, welcome back.  I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the site.  Now let’s get serious.


How to Schmooze (when you are a Raging Introverted CIO)

It’s conference season again.

As an IT leader you know that you need to get out of the office and get some professional development.  Regardless of the industry you are in, there are no shortage of great events that combine great speakers, relevant workshops, a chance to meet vendors, and hundreds if not thousands of delegates seeking to solve the same problems and who are faced with similar issues.
Image: MS Office Imagebank

For many IT leaders, therein lies the problem.

Not the workshops or the show… but the number of people they don’t know.  In a highly unscientific study mainly based on personal observation I would suggest that the majority of folks attending IT conferences as delegates are highly uncomfortable meeting new people and engaging in small talk, particularly if they have come on their own.


You’ve Done Your 4.1 Years… Now What?

We CIOs are known to be a mobile bunch. Gartner Research recently pegged the average tenure for a CIO to be 4.1 years.  At the end of this month, I celebrate my fourth anniversary in my current role.

According to Gartner, I should be primping my resume.

Image: MS Office Imagebank

But what if you don’t want to go anywhere?

How do you still add value to your organization?

You've picked all the low hanging fruit that generated great savings and by now you really should have lived through one total infrastructure lifecycle and four budget periods.

You are an active and fully participating member of the senior leadership team.

Your IT team has been restructured to meet the current needs and you’ve implemented Project

Portfolio Management and rapid application development tools.

You are fully up to date in all of your enterprise systems.

You've adjusted your Service Catalog to ensure your team is only working on things that differentiate or add value to your organization.  All other (critical but non-differentiating) services and systems have been outsourced or moved to SaaS, IaaS or PaaS.

Your customers, clients and team are (mostly) happy.

If you go by Gartner’s number, the next phase of CIO tenure is uncharted territory for many CIOs.  It would probably be easier to go to a new organization and start all over, but if you are up to the challenge, here are five things to think about:

1.  How’s it working for ya?

Go over the idealistic list of accomplishments I've just presented.  Are you missing a check box in any of them?  That would be a great place to start and ensure you've addressed all the big areas in your portfolio.

2.  Mind the Gap (between the data you input and the knowledge you extract)

Peter Drucker famously said “Work is easy. Just get the right information to the right people, at the right time.”  I don’t care how much you paid for your ERP software, there is a strong likelihood that there are areas where there would be huge benefits in better reporting, analytics, or BI tools.  No matter where you are, you will never be done in this area as long as you are the CIO.

3.  Never confuse motion with progress. Ensure you are doing the right things.

Being busy at the wrong things is as bad as doing nothing.  You are wasting the potential energy of your team.  This would be a good time to review your service catalog. Perhaps your team is busy on things that had an important reason a couple of years ago, but no longer are needed as things have changed.

4.  Define the future.

If you plan on staying on, then the five year plan you gave the hiring committee is almost ready to expire.  In any event, your five year plan is probably obsolete. Do you have the sequel ready?  Better yet, has your IT plan been fully integrated into your organization’s strategic plan?

5.  Is this the last stop? Planning a legacy.

Everybody has an end date.  Even you.

It doesn't matter if don't plan on leaving, you will still have to attend your farewell dinner at some point.

So what then?

Who takes your chair?

Believe it or not, this is as critical as almost anything else you do as CIO.  Who are you coaching / training / developing on your team?  Is there anyone who could take over for you?

What are the skills they need to develop?  How are they going to develop them?

If one or two names don’t immediately come to mind, then you’ve got some work to do.

There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit for a new CIO to deal with that have quick wins and very measurable results.  Developing the strategy for the second 4.1 years is the challenge.
If like me, you have decided to go for the ride… I wish you the best.


A Minute With Michael

What if you had an opportunity to speak directly to one of the most influential people in technology in the last 25 years?

If you had one minute to ask a question, or make a comment, what would you say?

I had such an opportunity to sit around a small conference table with Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers last evening.

As part of their 25th anniversary celebration, Dell Canada invited a dozen educational sector IT leaders from colleges, universities, and school boards. For reasons known only to higher powers, they invited me, opinions and all.


First Impressions: Microsoft Surface Pro

I have been intrigued by the MS Surface since they were first announced.  Being able to actually touch one at a Microsoft conference only added to the intrigue.

We are heavy adopters and integrators of Microsoft SharePoint and OneNote, so while the Surface RT model was sleek, I knew I needed to wait for the Surface Pro.

Yesterday, I broke down and bought one.

Here are my first impressions:


Sharpening the CIO Saw

You are a smart person.  You wouldn't have gotten to where you are without being smart... But I have news for you.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Your brilliance gets dull with use.  Just like a knife. Or better yet a saw. 

I grew up in a part of the world where a good number of people earned their livelihood by harvesting the trees that became paper. (Our field trips weren't to the museum, but to the pulp and paper mill.)
There was something one learned quickly.  You couldn't fire up your chainsaw in the morning and cut all day without the saw losing its 'edge', becoming dull, and making it more work to use.

Workers who took the time to 'sharpen their saw' could actually cut more wood than those who don't.
I'm not the first to use this metaphor. The late Stephen Covey described it as:

"Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have - you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual."

For those of us in IT leadership, let me add a fifth - Leading IT.


How to Create a Great Technical Team

Image: MS Office Image Bank

I work with a team of magicians. They continually amaze and impress me with innovative ideas and solutions and have earned the respect of both the user community in our organization and with their peers in our industry.

But it wasn't always this way.

That's the one major area where I take the credit as CIO - in creating this team of magic workers. Some of my team were here when I started, others were hired since I arrived. But everyone's job has changed to get the results we do today.

Let me be so bold as to say that this should be on the top of your priority list. Without it, you won't really be able to accomplish all the other things on your list anywhere near as effectively.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, let me give you 5 tips for creating your team of high performers.


Why 1:1 Programs in Schools are Obsolete

If you are considering a 1:1 program for your school, you may want to stop and reconsider.

There are volumes written about the need to equip today's students with technology to ensure they have the tools necessary for success in the world today.  For many schools, they look forward to the day when every student in the class has a computer.

But I’m beginning to think this isn’t enough.

First, a bit of background.


Peering inside the Black Box of Learning

This is a guest posting by one of my team members.  It covers some of the most interesting work we are doing here at Appleby College using Microsoft OneNote to enhance the learning experience. This is in addition to a number of other applications and technologies in place.

Appleby College has been a 1:1 computer school for over 14 years.  First as a laptop, then a pen-based tablet to support education.

We are delighted to share this story.  The paper below has been shared on Microsoft's Partners In Learning Hot Topic site.

If you are interested in further discussion on how this might be applicable to your school, send me an email (kpashuk(at)gmail(dot)com) with your contact information and I'll get back to you.

Comments and questions are welcome.  Enjoy the post below.


Working With IT Vendors – 5 Useful Tips

In my last position I received so many phone calls on a daily basis from vendors that I actually changed my voicemail to say “Hi! You’ve reached Kevin Pashuk. If this is an unsolicited call from a vendor, please don’t expect a return call.”

I can’t say I’m proud I did that, but it certainly reduced the call volume.

Now before you rush out and change your voicemail message, you need to take a moment and consider the role vendors have in your ecosystem.


Line of Business Leaders and the CIO - 5 Tips for a Successful Relationship

As you read this, you have probably just finished jettisoning, or at the very least ignoring the last of the New Year’s resolutions you have made (or your partner made for you).  Before you fall back into familiar patterns, let me discuss one major resolution you should strive to keep this year.

If you haven’t got a seat at the senior leadership table, let’s make this year the one in which you move closer to getting invited.  If you are already on the senior leadership team, let’s work on strengthening your position and not become marginalized.  (It can happen.  In the Canadian College system, several CIOs have recently lost their direct report to the President and now report to the Administrative head.)

Working well with your colleagues (or soon to be colleagues) at the leadership table is key to your success.  Each of them represent a key line of business or operational function within your organization and you are in a unique role to represent the one line that touches each of their areas in a way that will help them achieve their goals.  (I know that Finance also touches each area, but it is more of a cost control and management function than an enable and empower ability that IT can bring.)

Now here comes the touchy/feely part… you have to build relationships with your colleagues.  I know that for some of you, you would rather lick the paint off the wall than divert from your task-oriented, introverted tribe of technical types rather than schmooze with the head of marketing or HR.

This my friends is the price of admission, and not such a bad thing.  After all, I'm not suggesting you become best friends or invite them on a vacation.  I'm suggesting that CIOs need to work on developing professional relationships with their colleagues on the leadership team.

Here are five tips for doing so: