Monday, December 31, 2012


Five IT Predictions for 2013

Many industry pundits and thought leaders use the changing of the new year as a reason to make bold predictions. Guess I am no different...

So, here are my top five IT predictions for 2013:

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


Obama and Tobacco Smoke Enemas

Tobacco Smoke Enemas (1750s – 1810s)

The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient’s rectum for various medical purposes, primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase “blow smoke up one’s ass.”

This has been reintroduced in Washington D.C.

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Monday, December 17, 2012


How CIOs enable vendor lock-in

You are an enterprise CIO with a limited budget to implement a strategic enterprise application. Your shop isn't disciplined enough to put the brakes on the business continually asking for enhancements. Your procurement department gets involved and adopts the mindset that everything is a commodity and therefore the price should be as cheap as possible. The only thing that gets procurement to change their mind is the melodic words of mass customization...

Any customized service or product configuration creates switching costs that increase a customer's willingness to continue buying from that particular vendor rather than bidding out every opportunity. The trick is to ensure that whatever high-end services that are developed, can't be duplicated by their competitors without great effort even when you violate the NDA and share the vendor's intellectual property with their competitors in order to bring down price.

As we encourage IT to further align with the business, it is almost certain that the vendor community will become participants. A highly desirable brand name, or a product in heavy demand by your customer’s own customers or users, can be very effective at pulling vendors products through the enterprise. The “Intel Inside” advertising campaign creates pull-through for Intel. When Mattel offers Toys-R-Us an exclusive arrangement for particular configurations or for products with their own consumer brands such as “Barbie” or “Hot Wheels” or “Harry Potter,” it is making itself indispensable to this very tough customer. For organizations that hire Accidenture, they often find themselves hooked like crack addicts when they can no longer access their services.

What if the CIO stopped espousing partnership and actually decided to be genuine in creating true partnerships. Each organization wants to protect themselves and retain/obtain as much money as possible. Relationships are critical on both sides. Both parties desire innovation and both can benefit from respective innovations, thus true partnership. If your enterprise processes focus on rate arbitrage, contract word twiddling, attempting to commoditize your vendors intellectual property or other worst practices, it is certain that your vendors will have no choice but to respond with tactics that ensure vendor lock-in.

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Friday, December 14, 2012


Another CIO worst practice for Business/IT alignment

It goes without saying that many enterprises are taking advantage of global IT outsourcing trends in hopes of reducing IT labor costs. Many organizations have procurement practices that are thorough in maximizing labor abritage but otherwise fail in reducing cost over a longer time horizon. More importantly, their approaches to outsourcing tend to increase the misalignment of vendors you work with.

Whenever a CIO creates an organization where the majority of IT staff aren't employees, it becomes equally important to focus on the need for business-aligned sourcing. Which sourcing vendor feels more aligned to you? An approach frequently used by Cognizant where they put account teams onsite that do nothing but walk the hallways asking your IT team their staffing needs without any form of ownership to outcome or the model used by firms such as HP and IBM that take a longer-term view by focusing less on staff augmentation and more on managed services.

In order to get business-aligned sourcing right, we need to turn most outsourcing decisions upside down. Let's start by analyzing enterprise behavior and understand where things go wrong...

CEO: We need to save more money. Outsource more!

CFO: I mandate outsourcing at every possible opportunity (even with it is boneheaded to do so) to cut costs

CFO: I have advised those lovely folks in procurement to review outsourcing bids and select the low-cost provider.

CIO: We are already thin on subject matter expertise and outsourcing will jeopardize our ability to support the business

CFO: I don't care about the business, but I do care about costs. Find a way to get the business to accept the lower quality that India outsourcing firms deliver and no you can't use higher quality firms such as HP or IBM

CIO: As my talent walks out the door, I am left with those who can't find jobs elsewhere. Besides, I want my bonus so I better focus on whats in it for me and let everyone worry about their own fate. Maybe I need to hide the activity under the banner of leadership

CTO: Hey CIO, WTF! the availability of our systems has decreased 10X since bringing on Cognizant and Infosys! The Business: How come I don't get the same level of quality that I did before?

CIO: Business customer, we have brought you losts of cost savings that you can use for invest projects. Don't worry about production uptime. The experience you are suffering is attributable to transition

CIO: This Indian outsourcing thing is going to cause me to lose my job. After outsourcing I realize that critical skills are lacking.

Outsourcing Sales Guy:Don't worry, CIO we got lots of people who can walk the hallway and solicit your directs for job reqs. We are really good in placing butts in seats!

CIO: If outsourcing isn't working well for us, the simple answer is to outsource more!

CEO: Our biggest competitor has outsourced, I should rally the team and frantically ask Why aren't we outsourcing more?

CIO: I will further reduce head count and lower costs. We need to go offshore for service delivery — now!

Does this conversation feel somewhat familiar to you? Does this feel business-aligned? Do you know that there are better ways...

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Thursday, December 13, 2012


Remote Worker: Six Benefits

I am going onto my second full year in being a remote worker. In my travels, I often mention that my office is officially in my basement but that I periodically spend time on the living room couch and use a Home Depot bucket as my desk. On more than a few occasions, I have been asked how often do I visit a physical office which I usually respond that there is one close by but since I do not have government clearance, I am forbidden to enter.

Most remote workers I know, seem to do so only in a part-time basis. You know, they are still on the fence. They may work from home a few days a week and hotel it in the office for the remainder. For me, I like the fact that hoteling is not an option for me and therefore I must find solace in the comfort of my own home.

There are six benefits to being a remote worker that I have discovered that I wanted to share with others in hopes that they too will find their inner zen.

Productivity: In environments that still are primarily dominated by the office culture, you will find the need to spend wasteful time on socialization activities that do not necessarily contribute to the bottom line. I do not miss the amount of energy I used to expend with a former employer on the need for "presence" and am now focused solely on getting shit done.

Gas and Insurance: In days past, I used to fill up my tank about every seven to ten days. Now, I can go two to three weeks before filling up. This means that I have at some level become more green and am doing my part to contribute less to the greenhouse effect. More importantly, with gas prices so high, I think I have given myself a $50 a month bonus. Bet you didn't know that if you do not use a vehicle to drive to work, you can get significant discounts off auto insurance. For me, this fact has saved me about $300 a year.
work/life balance: Once you shift mindsets from hours to outcomes, lots of possibilities become reality. For example, I know attend pretty much every school event, field trip and parent/teacher conference of my two kids and without having to necessarily ask permission to be out of the office. While many employers are usually accomodating, the simple fact that I have been able to remove the administrative task of asking also results in time savings.

Lower Stress: Pretty much all work environments have their stress factors. The key is in your ability to quickly and easily remove it. Earlier in the week, I found myself frustrated with a bureaucratic process, yet was able to relieve stress by immediately yelling at the top of my lungs lots of explicatives. I have been known periodically to put Wutang Clan and Ozzy Osborne on blast. Bet you can't do this in an office setting.
Multitasking: I also like the fact that I can multitask. You know, throw a load of laundry into the washing machine and get hyponitized in watching it spin. In life, we have lots of little tasks that simply queue up. My queue in this regard is very small. Part of achieving personal Kanban.
Casual dress: It goes without saying that I also spend less on my wardrobe. Casual clothes simply cost less than business casual clothing. There are days when I don't bother to get even casually dressed. The ability to dress in a way that makes you personally comfortable, aids in productivity, time savings and most importantly ability to engage in providing value to your employer, anytime, anywhere from any location...

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Three ways CIOs ensure failure of large IT projects

If we define "failure" using the definition of number of projects that are late, over budget or lack sufficient quality, then I have observed more of my fair share. In a previous life, I was an Enterprise Architect for The Hartford (A Fortune 100 Insurance Carrier) where we frequently worked with Accenture, IBM and Cognizant. During my tenure, I not only observed failure, but managed to observe patterns that makes failure a CIO repeatable best practice...

Now, that I am on the other side of the table, I too sometimes reflect on the practices of competitors and brainstorm better ways to help clients not fail. Sometimes, I am wildly successful by being radically transparent while at other times, I couldn't find the right words to convince that their strategy was suboptimal. Over the past year, I have been shifting my thought process away from Agile Software Developing towards Lean Thinking and therefore have spent a lot of time understanding Toyota. Since, I have cars on my mind, I will attempt to classify CIO-level failures into three buckets using driving as the metaphor since the CIO is usually in the drivers seat:

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Why I despise status reports (and you should too)...

I wonder if I am somehow unique in that I almost NEVER ask my team to provide me with status? My mantra as a leader is to be savage in reducing the amount of administrivia that development teams work. While I can control it for others, I do suffer in controlling it for myself. It is important to acknowledge the reason why status reports exist in the first place. The root cause is simply attributable to human nature. We focus on meetings that are primarily designed for people to get answers to questions—not explore answers but get answers, so they’re looking for information, looking for status reports.

Most of our inbox is filled with status reports—when is this thing going to be ready, when is it going to ship, what happened and that sort of thing. Even when we are engaging with people, we tell stories about events. What happened, tell me the story. If you put all those things together, all of them are about the results of what’s going on. They however aren’t so much about the why.

As someone with an engineering mindset, I tend to learn not by the current status of any situation but the root cause. If you are building bridges and you have built hundreds of them successfully, what have you learned? Now ask yourself how much you can learn when a bridge falls down?

If you think about the reports that people have, just the first layer of that system for understanding current reality, if they’re good reports, they tell us whether we have a problem. If they don’t even tell us about a potential problem, I’m not even sure what the point of the report is.

Second, they should tell us where we have a problem, or at least help us figure that out. Many reports don’t do that, but if they’re really good and the problem is of a certain nature, reports should be able to tell us where we have a problem. Even so, they still really never tell us why we have a problem. For that, we have to go to the source – we have to go to how the work is done. Whether it’s direct observation, we go and actually see the problem, whether it’s process maps or value stream maps, or a mechanism to get into how the work is designed and managed and improved.

We sometimes wax poetically about finding root cause, but sometimes we simply need to understand cause and effect. Many leaders don’t really understand how the problems are being generated. We often have much more focus on the results than we do on why we’re getting the result that we get.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012


Interviewing for a position where I am an interviewer...

On the chance that you ever interview for a position where I am conducting the interview, you may find it important to note what I think is important...

It goes without saying that I am savagely focused on technology over just soft skills alone as I have ran across more than a few buzzword puppets in my travels. But of course, being a student of the human aspects of technology, I do find myself on occasion paying attention to a few areas of concern. Below are four areas that are almost guaranteed to influence my decision.

Inability to use free time. I don’t want to see a candidate who has no additional interests or personality beyond what’s required to get a job in their industry. You need to show you’re a human being, not a robot. I love to see candidates with hobbies or even those who have taken on a second job—it shows you’re able to make good use of your free time to expand your skills and interests and this is a quality that’s likely to spill over into your professional life.

Unpreparedness. If you show up at the interview without having a working knowledge of the company, what its mission is, what type of work it does, who its clients are, etc., do not think it won’t show! I will be able to tell from the get-go if you haven’t done your homework and fully researched the company. Come armed with a few additional questions to ask at the end of the interview to show you’re already engaged in the company’s mission. This line of thinking doesn't just apply if you are interviewing for a position, but equally apply when you are a vendor attempting to sell a product. On more than a few occasions, I have gotten annoyed with Oracle sales teams for showing up at my past employer without having a clue as to what our business is yet waxing poetically how you can help us grow revenue.

Job hopping. If you’ve had tons of different positions in the last two years, or tend to leave a company after less than six months, this could signal you’re flaky, difficult to work with, or at the very least, unsure of what it is you really want to do. That doesn’t mean you need to lie on your resume – simply be honest with the hiring manager about what exactly has caused you to switch companies so many times. There are times where you need to escape working for ass-clowns, but this shouldn't be repeatable.

Shady online presence. While I do not adhere to the practice of checking a candidates Facebook page under the belief that this is wrong, I will look at their online presence in general.  I want to understand how truly engaged you are in your industry. You will make a big impression if you have a twitter account and/or a blog.

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