I live in a relatively modest 1,500-square-foot bungalow. It was built shortly after World War II by the first owner, a man who wanted his house to withstand possible mortar attacks from a resurgent Axis Alliance. Embedded within its very walls is a steel mesh that is great for stability but turns simple home improvements into a nightmare. It also means that we live in a form of a Faraday cage.
Our smartphones go from five bars to maybe two the minute we step inside the door. We also need to have two Wi-Fi hubs. They’re maybe 40 feet apart, but the signal just can’t make it through — literally — three walls of steel. Of course, old buildings being quirky is nothing new: A friend works in a rehabbed warehouse space, and deals with the constant issues caused by his overworked HVAC system not being able to chill the servers due to lousy insulation on the outer walls.
So, you move your operations to a new structure and problem solved? Maybe! Or maybe your problems are just beginning.
Modern builders employing green building methods tend to wrap the building frame — from floor to rafters — in insulated membranes like Protect TF200 Thermo or gold foil TyVek wrap. It’s a reflective surface, which is great if you want to prevent lost heat and cooling, but it might not be so awesome if you rely on wireless connectivity. And the worst part is that it’s already in the walls when you sign the lease on your new space, and you’ll never realize that you’re in a Faraday cage until your team logs onto their iPads and BlackBerrys.
Features Writer Laura Smith wrote last month, “IT may own the blueprint of the future, but facilities owns the blueprint of the building, and that usually determines where pipes and cables are laid, as well as where vents and access control points are located. IT’s involvement at the beginning of a data center consolidation and virtualization project helps eliminate the need for expensive retrofitting later.” You can’t really do anything after a building has been wrapped in environmentally friendly construction materials, but this is the kind of information that the facilities manager might not realize will impact the CIO’s bottom line. Sure, another AirPort Extreme isn’t going to kill anyone’s budget, but an unexpected 1,000 extra AirPorts and a need to change a telecom strategy most definitely will have an impact.
You never really know what you don’t know, especially when it’s bricked up inside the walls. Great CIOs have always been able to roll with surprises, whether it’s an unexpected system outage or a lost radio signal; but this is just one more reason why a CIO needs to establish a great relationship with her facilities manager.
My wife and I started getting the emails April 4. Best Buy. Our bank. Other e-commerce sites we had shopped. The impact of the Epsilon security breach was far and wide.
My first thought was that at least companies are getting less squeamish about putting out breach notifications. By now, businesses understand that a security breach doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be put out of business, which we learned with the TJX data breach.
But what is different in the wake of the Epsilon attack is that cybercriminals don’t necessarily have to get all of your personally identifiable information anymore to be able to get an edge on the consumer. Here, they just got names and email addresses. But that may be enough: A mere notification may be enough to spur someone to reply to a phishing email and inadvertently give away much more information than the original breach garnered.
Just as companies all have to have security and privacy policies, so do individual consumers when dealing with cybercrime. The same rules apply, however — awareness, diligence and taking the responsibility to know with whom you are doing business.
The first “mobile computing device” that I used was a 30-pound IBM “luggable” PC. It cost more than $4,000 and boasted the Intel 8088 microprocessor running at a blazing 4.77 MHz and ran off of two 5 1/4-inch floppy drives. There really wasn’t anything mobile about it, and not much computing was to be had, though it helped get me through college.
Today I am writing this on a 1 GHz dual-core Apple A5 “custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip” (as described by Apple) — an iPad — which costs $500 and weighs only 1.35 lbs.
IT has taken the economy and productivity in most industries to new heights in the past 30 years. Health care has stubbornly stayed on its own course, sometimes fitfully trying to play catch-up. It was only about two years ago that my doctors first started bringing laptops into the exam rooms instead of paper charts.
Now, with mobile technology devices like the iPad, tablet PCs, the iPhone, the Droid phone, BlackBerrys and a host of new remote home monitoring technologies and services, it’s time for health care to make the great — albeit delayed — leap into the Information Age.
I spent this week at the Institute for Health Technology Transformation’s conference in Atlanta, “Health IT in Practice: Strategies for a next generation health care system.” Based on what I saw and discussed with attendees, it seems that health care could now even be in the HOV lane, speeding by other industries.
The requirements of security, privacy, multiplatform capability and usability are pushing health care developers to create truly revolutionary apps for patient care. The difference this time is that these are technology answers to crucial questions being driven by health care reform and other electronic health care mandates, rather than whiz-bang technologies trying to change things.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and Mozilla Firefox 4 dropped within a week of each other, and now that the dust has settled, Internet users are finding that there are pieces of their daily lives that aren’t quite gelling with the new world order. For instance, certain programs just don’t play nice anymore. Firefox 4 refuses to load certain websites, and Microsoft has chosen to no longer support Windows XP in IE9
Don’t expect any sympathy from Microsoft about the fact that you can’t upgrade to IE9 without moving off of XP. IE9’s senior director, Ryan Gavin, has no patience for any complaints. “You simply can’t build on something that is 10 years ago,” he said. Who can blame him? (And also, I’m starting to feel like a maiden aunt at a family reunion. XP was released 10 years ago! How is that possible? They grow up so fast.)
Anyone who has been around an IT shop for even a matter of days knows this is nothing new: We’re constantly in a state of innovating our systems while cursed with foundation apps that no longer work with this program or that plug-in. In my last role, at least once a week, one of my team members would complain that the production management database was broken. Even though I haven’t worked tech support in years, I usually diagnosed the problem without even leaving my desk. “You installed Flash, didn’t you?” I’d say, and they would assure me that they did not break my seemingly draconian rule of never, ever, ever installing Adobe or Java updates — and yet, when we’d take a closer look, they magically had an updated version of Flash sitting on their desktops.
They’d blush and get quiet — to say more would reveal that they had been clearly trying to watch videos on YouTube. Hey, “Charlie bit my finger” is hilarious, and I dare anyone to watch it without cracking a smirk, but the simple fact was our ancient collaboration tool got jacked up when YouTube helpfully guided them to update their Flash software and that single mouse click brought their job performance to a screeching halt.
Operating systems aside, I wonder how many other processes broke when thousands of employees installed the Mozilla Firefox 4 or IE9 releases. Last week, SearchCIO-Midmarket.com editorial director Scot Petersen wrote in a post about IT innovation that the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ philosophy will eventually hurt your business,” and here we see that sentiment being demonstrated by those scrambling to deal with these browser upgrades. CIOs dealing with “broke and busted” this week are paying the price by being stuck with outdated tech or upgrading systems before they were ready.
If Microsoft is telling people that it’s time to move on from one of its biggest business products, perhaps CIOs should take this as a cue to look at their legacy apps and get transition plans in place before it’s too late. Otherwise, they’ll forever find themselves racing to keep up while dragging years of outdated technology behind them.
Are you in the middle of a headache caused by the Mozilla Firefox 4 or IE9 releases? Hit the comments and commiserate with the group.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that retiring Baby Boomers will leave a record number of jobs open when they retire — by the time 2018 rolls around, we’ll be looking at a hard-core worker shortage. According to the attendees at FusionCIO conference last month, it’s happening already in IT.
One CIO who asked not to be named said that out of his 72 employees, more than a third (24 workers) could retire at any moment. And he was stressed about the fact that they could all walk at the same time, basically putting him in a solid state of hiring mode for months. The problem isn’t limited to just his team: He laughed and said the company literally had to issue a memo forbidding the use of conference rooms for retirement parties because his office had so many people retiring that it couldn’t find space for actual meetings.
The Baby Boomers gave birth to the Information Age. We are so focused on looking toward the future at new technology that sometimes we miss the importance of history. There’s the old cherry of never really knowing what you’ve until it’s gone: If you looked around your office right now, how many of your graying IT workers do what they do so competently that you never get to see how crucial their functions are, or how their absence might lead to a catastrophic failure of the process?
At my last employer, one IT guru had retired in May 2009, but he was still working in a consulting role as of February (making five times what he did as a regular employee). During his career, everyone knew that he was amazing, but no one had ever thought about how much pivoted around the information that was trapped inside one guy’s brain. They didn’t see that many processes literally could not function without his constant vigilance. In theory, he was brought back to mentor, but the mentees were so green that half of the information he was imparting flew totally over their heads. Every time he finished up his mentoring and left, a few months later some crisis would arise or the replacement quit and he’d be called back. And each return took more incentive for him to leave retirement life and return to the cubicle gulag.
Mentoring is critical as our aging Baby Boomers prepare to make the transition to retirement. With something as blatant and predictable as seniority, there’s no excuse for being taken by surprise by a retiring Baby Boomer.
What mentoring and knowledge transfer programs are in place in your organization? What are you doing to ensure that your brilliant fiftysomething IT professional that you rely on daily isn’t going to leave you and take with her all the magic that makes your legacy systems or installed base programs function?
Shoot me a comment and let me know what you’re doing to mitigate the pain of losing your valuable retirement-age IT workers.
What are we talking about when we are talking about IT innovation? The answers are as varied as there are people to answer the question. And the answers rarely have much to do with technology, which might seem odd when you are talking about innovation with CIOs.
But that’s the impression I got from several CIOs whom my colleagues and I interviewed at the recent Gartner CIO Leadership Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz. The theme of the conference was “Creative Destruction: Radically Rethinking IT.” That in itself is certainly a way of thinking about innovation.
Here’s Bryan Smith, CIO of Volvo Construction Equipment North America:
“I think of the process that either individuals or businesses go through of purposefully making the decision to do something in a different way, even though it might be disrupting a comfortable way of doing things,” he said. “Creative disruption is necessary, because it becomes so easy to say, well, we’ve always done it this way.”
The “we’ve always done it this way” philosophy will eventually hurt your business and your career. Given a lack of much technology innovation of late — the cloud may be new and innovative, but the technology behind it is not — CIOs are making up for it with new thinking about what the business wants to accomplish with the existing technology.
That’s why the CIO is so bound up in the innovative process. Change and growth rely on close businesses and technology integration. The CIO is the one person in your organization who can start bringing the two together.
This week marks Twitter’s fifth birthday. It’s a precocious 5-year-old, in that it has done in half a decade what most companies need 20 years to accomplish: become an integral part of our everyday lexicon, leaving some early adopters wondering how to even practice executive networking the old-fashioned way. And some people are actively wondering “why bother?”
At the FusionCIO conference a few weeks ago, I did a quick search and saw that only three of us (the conference’s organizer, one other person and me) were tweeting using the conference hashtag, #FusionCIO. It didn’t seem possible: More than 200 tech-savvy professionals, all with a demonstrated ability to manage their personal brand to such an extent that they have climbed to the top of the information technology leadership hierarchy … and yet less than 2% were Tweeting?
SearchCIO-Midmarket.com Editorial Director Scot Petersen wondered this week if Twitter is overrated. “Opportunity cost, in business, is the next best option for where to make an investment. With Twitter, it’s the thing you’re missing out on by Tweeting another thing,” he wrote. It’s possible that our fellow attendees were focusing entirely on the moment and the speaker at hand rather than interrupting their concentration to send out a 140-character-or-less burst of text into the ether. However, when I think about Scot’s example of Twitter users fixated on their handhelds at SXSW, I’m guessing that many of the CIOs and CEOs from FusionCIO just aren’t using Twitter at all.
I caught up with Jeff Willinger, the other attendee who was actively live-Tweeting the event. He had just spent some of the break showing a handful of CIOs how to use TweetDeck, a popular third-party app that helps you manage and organize the onslaught of Tweets. They had never seen it before, which was surprising to us both. Why aren’t more CIOs on Twitter? “They’re afraid,” he said, “simple as that. They’re either afraid of getting fired or they just don’t know how to get value from it.”
CIOs are telling me that their biggest struggle is in finding ways to increase their presence and demonstrate IT’s value to the business, yet if the FusionCIO audience is any indication, CIOs are underrepresented on Twitter. Whether it’s sharing information or links or actively presenting yourself as Julie, your cruise director for your company, Twitter is an accessible, easy tool for personal and business branding.
There are a few brave souls out there. For instance, SearchCIO-Midmarket.com maintains a list of CIOs on Twitter that at press time followed almost 200 CIOs. That list is growing by the week, as more CIOs step into the ring.
Do you Tweet? Or do you feel, as some do, that no one wants to hear what you had for breakfast this morning? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, send CIOMidmarket an @reply on Twitter!
Last week, SearchCIO-Midmarket.com Site Editor Wendy Schuchart did a nice job showing the upside of Twitter for business. “Social media presented an easy opportunity [for P.F. Chang’s] to make the most of the customer experience and demonstrate to the business that there’s gold in them thar tweets,” she wrote.
Yet, like all things, all that glitters is not necessarily gold.
I call it the “opportunity cost” of tweeting. Opportunity cost, in business, is the next best option for where to make an investment. With Twitter, it’s the thing you’re missing out on by tweeting another thing.
This was perfectly illustrated at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, which concluded Sunday in Austin, Texas. You have to check out Amy Harmon’s New York Times account of the festivities, if only for the picture of four tweeters standing together with all eyes on their phones and none on each other.
(Twitter is one of the things that brought these people to Austin in the first place. SXSW and Twitter created a buzz back in 2008 when a tweet-happy audience basically upstaged an interview between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and journalist Sarah Lacy.)
This year, some tweeters at SXSW faced a backlash from people who were not attendance, jealous that they were missing out on the fun. Some Twitterers were being unfollowed, having their communiqués from Austin blocked or seeing their #SXSW hashtags filtered out.
Though most avid Twitter users are expert multitaskers, you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. And inasmuch as Twitter allows people to share experiences and places and time vicariously, sometimes that can be too much of a good thing.
Awhile ago, a lady in Florida was sitting in a P.F. Chang’s China Bistro restaurant and sent out a 140-character update to Twitter about her delicious lettuce-wrap appetizer. Across the country, in Scottsdale, Ariz., a social media-aware worker at P.F. Chang’s HQ spotted the tweet. P.F. Chang’s management called the particular restaurant and, by using the customer’s profile picture, identified which table she was sitting at and had a server bring her lettuce wraps and a dessert for being an enthusiastic supporter of their company.
Just think: By having its finger on the pulse of its social media branding, P.F. Chang’s had a minor social media coup. Not only has it earned a fan for life who has an active Twitter account and undoubtedly told her friends and co-workers about her lunchtime surprise and a company that cares, but soon executives were talking about P.F. Chang’s and its lettuce wraps in conferences and meetings as an example of intuitive branding. It’s on YouTube and business blogs and I, along with 200 CIOs and CEOs, heard about it during a presentation at a recent IT conference.
I’d bet that P.F. Chang’s never imagined it would get so much brand mileage out of a $15 comp!
Some C-level executives fear the Facebook. As a solid member of Gen X, I recognize that I’m an early adopter, but it’s 2011, so it’s not like social media is an untested arena. IT nightmares are not usually caused by social media – rather, they’re tools to help you circumnavigate and manage those same nightmares. In the case of P.F. Chang’s, social media presented an easy opportunity to make the most of the customer experience and demonstrate to the business that there’s gold in them thar Tweets.
Whether or not you have a social media strategy, your customers are out there, on Twitter and Facebook, telling the world how they feel about you. As SearchCIO-Midmarket.com contributor Scott Lowe wrote in last week’s social media tip, “If you ignore that, you’re choosing to sit on the sidelines.” Whether it’s a Facebook group begging Trader Joe’s to open in a certain geographic location or a blogger with a million followers complaining about his or her washing machine, social media is a cosmos that the smart midmarket CIO cannot ignore. And if you think that your customer base isn’t into social media, I can say with certainty that your customers and partners have tried searching for your company on Twitter or Facebook already. Did those searches come up with the sound of crickets?
It’s hard to get CIOs to talk technology these days. And that’s a good thing.
I had the pleasure recently of meeting with the two men in charge of the giant systems integration project that was the result of the merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia banks in 2008.
Martin B. Davis is executive vice president and head of the Technology Integration Office, and was formerly CIO at Wachovia. Wayne Mekjian, executive vice president and CIO, Information Services, came over with Wells Fargo.
They have quite a story about how they were able to bring two large organizations together and within three years will have merged or synced up all technology infrastructure and operations.
But they don’t have a lot of details on servers or cloud or mobile devices, because they don’t see the integration as about those things. Instead, it’s all about the customer. Nothing was accomplished in terms of something being a good technology decision. Any IT decision followed from the business need. And the business need starts with customers: their data, services, access and accounts.
That focus came from the top and enveloped the entire company. “You will not hear our CEO [and Chairman John Stumpf] speak without saying that the No. 1 priority is the integration,” said Davis. “There was buy-in at the top around customer focus.”
Watch for more coverage of this merger coming on SearchCIO.com.