A midmarket CIO’s challenges are many, and I’m always amazed by the stories I hear when I’m out on the road meeting many of you.
This week I touched down in Redmond for Microsoft’s US Midsize Business CIO Summit, an invitation-only event for about 400 midmarket CIOs. It’s a press-free conference, but I was privileged to be a speaker and thus join the technology glitterati on site.
My conversations covered a lot of topics, but what I’ll share with you here is a sampling of the folks I met. If you think your job is tough, consider those of these CIOs – then I’ll ask you to vote or share your story of trying circumstances.
- The CIO for a firm that conducts clinical trials. He has five staff in the U.S. and 25 in Europe. Based on the West Coast, he had just spent over a week on the road, first in London and then in Russia, then came directly to the conference. At home he’s on calls early in the morning and late in the evening, syncing up with staff around the world. Challenges? Language, culture. … He absolutely wasn’t griping about the travel or the hours (he didn’t even look tired!) and I know he’s hardly alone in living such a global lifestyle. But to me that seemed the most challenging part.
- The CIO who was hired to bring a food distributor into the 21st century. The company had all sorts of aging or aged systems – but the hard part was when this maverick CIO announced capabilities he wanted to roll out to the employee base. The CEO told him that sales reps were not going to use computers. Period.
- The CIO who had endured several offshoring contracts (some negotiated by his parent company), all with ill effects. In one case, employees at a provider hacked into his systems; in another, a key offshore contact left for another firm just after completing his Oracle training in the U.S. Meanwhile, he grappled with undeveloped infrastructure – he couldn’t get a switch for a new plant he was building — and bureaucrats who promised fixes and then didn’t deliver.
Do you relate to any of these experiences or have your own story of obstacles to share? Vote below for the one that seems most challenging and feel free to offer advice to the CIOs in question.
You know that new iPhone you got? Or the Android order you put in? Well, not to get all Debbie Downer on you, but your sexy smartphone is a security threat.
The Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) announced the release of the Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2009. A big help in our overall awareness and protection, the report outlines security concerns and risks for consumer and enterprise Internet users. So what’s your mobile device got to do with it? Cell phones will become members of botnets.
In the GTISC report, Patrick Traynor, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgia Tech and member of the GTISC, delves into the “digital wallet” smartphone concept (smartphones store personal identity and payment information). He says smartphones will be injected with malware — when this happens, “large cellular botnets could then be used to perpetrate a DoS attack against the core of the cellular network.” The good news? Traynor goes on to say it will provide an opportunity to design security properly for the quickly evolving mobile communications sector.
The overall threat areas to be aware of, according to the report, are malware, botnets, cyberwarfare, threats to VoIP and mobile devices and the evolution of the cybercrime economy. The driving force behind all the attacks? The data.
The cybercrime community (a mafia of sorts, if you will) will be utilizing our recent advancements in social networking to cloak malcode. One example given in the report: Facebook wall links posted by a friend prompting users to install Flash Player updates. When the unaware user clicks to install the update, a piece of malware is installed on the machine. And just like that, the computer is involved in a botnet.
Other stats to be aware of? Botnets have become worse in 2008 and GTISC researchers estimate 15% of online computers will be botnet-affected this year. Cyberwarfare and attempts to “subvert the US economy and infrastructure” will accompany military interaction more often. And the already vulnerable VoIP? Cybercriminals will look to engage in voice fraud, data theft and other scams.
We’re all a little on edge lately. From the stock market to the housing crisis, feelings of instability infiltrate our daily lives. There’s no escaping it – we’re in an economic mess. And as the pressure mounts and the stress continues, some interesting things are happening in the workplace…
Passive-aggressive emails, tight-lipped smiles in the office kitchen, no more jolly hellos in the halls. What’s going on?
The answer? Desk rage: an increasingly common affliction within the office as stresses over rising costs, debt or job uncertainty continue to haunt Americans. Jennifer Bunk, assistant professor of psychology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, has collected data on the subject from more than 1,000 workers. She found that 75% of people she surveyed have been treated rudely in the workplace at least once every year. Bunk also found that even mild rudeness decreases job satisfaction and commitment to the company, affecting turnover rates and retention. If someone quits, the company has to invest resources into finding a replacement. And if you happen to be the person to quit? Good luck commandeering the job market –budgets are tight.
A recent Fierce CIO Report found “the Corporate Executive Board in Washington, D.C., surveyed 50 CIOs, and nearly 25% said they have imposed a hiring freeze, while half said they are cutting spending on consultants and contractors.”
With job cuts and hiring freezes taking place, expanded work roles for IT staff are becoming standard procedure — which means more work and more time spent in the office.
What happens when single professionals with very little dating breathing room (less money, less time, less energy…) are cooped up in the same building everyday, experiencing similar events?
You guessed it – the office romance.
Results from Vault’s 2008 Office Romance Survey show 82% of respondents have known of an office romance between co-workers and 46% of respondents have been involved in an office romance themselves (20% of which resulted in “true love”). Well if the desk rage didn’t get you, the awkwardness post (potential) breakup will — one third of the relationships actually become “long term.” On the upside (yes, upside – I’m not that cynical) 42% believe that their mood would improve, encouraging them to go to work each morning.
Difficult times call for difficult measures, so do what you have to do. Just make sure your office romance doesn’t transform into office rage.
Google has introduced its new Mail Goggles – and I love the idea.
The application, once enabled, will check your mental clarity by making you solve math problems after clicking send; then, if you can’t solve the problems, the email doesn’t go through. The default settings make Mail Goggles only active late night on the weekends but are completely adjustable. According to the Google Blog, the late-night default settings are there because “that is the time you’re most likely to need it.” The buzz centers around the midnight drunk emailer, the person who comes home and just has to send the ex an “I miss you” email because all those beers really made everything seem so clear – the email equivalent to “drunk dialing.”
OK, that’s one scenario. But it can provide professional protection as well.
Think about it: Maybe you weren’t pummeled by pints on a Tuesday night; instead, you were working late finishing up a project … alone. You’re at your wits’ end, feeling underappreciated. Upset, frustrated, angry – you decide that you’re going to send an email to your boss (or your co-worker … or whoever will listen at this point). In the heat of the moment, you draft a passionate email and hit the send button – and you’re prompted with math questions. After an attempt at ratios and long division, suddenly, maybe you’re not that upset after all. No harm done, the email is cancelled and you aren’t haunted by the ghosts of emailers’ regret as your passive-aggressive words slip away into cyberspace.
With email being the main form of communication within many companies, people in the organization have to be more aware of their emotions in stressful situations. Why? The online disinhibition effect: People behave with less restraint on the Internet than in real-world situations.
This is obvious in some of the email horror stories I’ve read and heard. What about you? Any “friend of a friend” email tales of regret?
Yes, even Google, one of the Internet companies best-positioned for a financial downturn, has falling stock. I watched the real-time trading with sick fascination as the little red down-turned arrow blinked again and again. Maybe it’s not as surprising to some; stocks go up and down on a regular basis. But the stock dropped more than $50 since last week, hitting the lowest numbers since March 2006. Analysts have cut back their earnings estimates for Google based on the weakening global economy and the rally of the dollar. But analysts remain optimistic on search advertising’s strength in a potential advertising recession
Google, a search advertising money-making machine, essentially organizes online information and then throws some ads on it. This search advertising brings in about 40% of the $40 billion online advertising dollars spent each year, overpowering the likes of Microsoft Live and Yahoo. So what is a company like Google to do when the times get tough?
Look for more advertising opportunities?
The New York Times reported that Google released AdSense for Games, offering 15- to 30-second commercial-like ads bringing more advertising formats to brand advertisers. Google will also start click-to-buy advertising on YouTube with the YouTubevertorial. A Google blog post on the matter describes the click-to-buy links as “nonobtrusive retail links, placed on the watch page beneath the video with the other community features.” Essentially, users interested in the material can get instant gratification and click to buy the song, game, etc.
Already bombarded by ads wherever we go online, I’m curious to see how these new ad formats will affect the typical Web user. Will we get bogged down with advertisements in a financial slowdown?
How much of our personalities is being lost behind Web 2.0? We Facebook, we blog, we get hooked up in LinkedIn, we SMS and email and twitter – but who are we portraying and who exactly is on the other end? And I’m not talking about customizing your Ning network with your personal preferences or updating your Facebook status as a way of portraying who you are. I’m talking about the human interaction.
Not just in a “Kumbaya” sort of way— but from a professional standpoint. Especially with the current economic situation, where layoffs and hiring freezes are very real concerns – are we slowly phasing ourselves out by not coming in?
In my daily scan of compelling tech news and points of interest, I came across a “This I Believe” NPR recording titled “The power of hello.” Ready to slow my search and kick back with my earbuds, I listened to the podcast by Howard White, a Nike executive.
In his own words, White recounts a moment from his childhood that changed his life: His mother scolded him for not acknowledging a neighbor, saying, “You let that be the last time you ever walk by somebody and not open up your mouth to speak, because even a dog can wag its tail when it passes you on the street.”
White continues on to describe his role in Nike and how after years of conversation with the founder, he finally got the courage to ask him for a meeting and … the rest is history.
I know, I thought it sounded a bit Pursuit of Happyness, myself – but I immediately began to think of it in context of my own job. And yours.
Knowing the people you work with by face and not just by AIM screen name gets things done. You know who to ask, where to go and who will go the extra mile to help you make a deadline.
With more and more people telecommuting and instant messaging (in and out of the office), are we losing our office humanity? Rather, is being just a face in the crowd (or a name on the email list) making it easier for you to be overlooked as a strong, capable, employee who should be promoted and kept around? And for CIOs, do you look for someone with personality and team camaraderie when making hiring (or firing) decisions?
I certainly get caught up in the tech world. It’s exciting, it’s opened doors to worldwide communication and “anywhere connectivity.” But I also see the importance of making oneself known as a person and not just an employee or a name. Maybe it’s just nice to know your team and feel good in your work environment.
Maybe I’m not willing to settle for a toothy-grinned emoticon.
The Obama campaign has introduced an iPhone application — Obama ‘08. Self-described as the “official, comprehensive connection to the heart of Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s campaign,” the application has features and tools to keep interested voters up to date.
The application’s features include up-to-date campaign news, a “call friends” feature (allowing the user to reach out to friends to remind them to vote, etc.), videos, photos and talking points (to help users convince their friends to vote for Obama).
The free application was developed in less than three weeks by volunteers and is available in the iTunes App Store. In his blog, Senator Obama’s staff notes, “This tool is designed to help you become more directly involved in our campaign to change the country.”
The country hasn’t been changed yet, but the Obama campaign has changed the way Americans connect and become involved during election season. Before Joe Biden was announced as his running mate, Obama promised to text message the news to those who texted VP to a designated number. He also offered up free Obama buttons via Facebook to those who requested them.
The Obama campaign has taken social networking to a whole new level – using technology to its advantage. And it’s certainly not afraid to try something new – blogging, Facebooking, texting, Twittering and creating iPhone applications.
For those of you who try it – phone a friend. Or at the very least, share your phone-a-friend option with Governor Palin.
But, unless you have Internet Explorer 6.0, you aren’t even able to access the SearchPerks registration form. Yep. In order to test out SearchPerks you need to have IE 6 or higher. That’s a deal breaker right there.
With only a 9% market share compared with Google’s 60%, Microsoft refuses to give up on the search market. And you have to admire that fact – despite the failed Yahoo acquisition (which Google sidled up and snagged), it’s full steam ahead! Microsoft will not quit – but it will pay you to use Live Search.
So what is SearchPerks? Registered users agree to download a usage tracking program and then earn one ticket per every Live Search query (up to 25 tickets per day) until the program ends in April. Users can then redeem their tickets for prizes or donate the rewards to charity.
As interesting as it sounds, the SearchPerks registration page has a bit of a late-night infomercial feel to it. Things like “the sooner you sign up, the more opportunity you have to earn tickets!” are reminiscent of the “act now to receive your second Magic Bullet completely free!” But then again, perks persuade people to buy (or in this case, be bought).
Why hasn’t Live taken off? Is it because Google is so well known as a reliable search engine that newcomers barely have time to make it out of the starting gate? Cuil didn’t get too far, either – and it had pictures included in the results lists. But maybe that’s it – we don’t want the extras, just give us our search results so we can continue on with our task at hand. We don’t have time to register and redeem prizes! I found the added prize bonus to be an incredible turnoff. I want results, not prizes. If I were aiming for the latter I’d open a box of Cracker Jack.
By offering up SearchPerks to attract users, has Microsoft inadvertently proved Google’s strength? The search engine should speak for itself, no gimmicks necessary.
After the annoyingly strange Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercials promoting Microsoft, a new batch of adverts surfaced featuring the slogan “I’m a PC.” It goes something like this: Microsoft employees and users are meshed together in a montage of “I’m a PC and I [fill in stereotype of your choice here]” in a battle against Apple’s commercials portraying a PC negatively. Because, as they say in the ads, a PC is not a stereotype. But grouping all PC users in as Microsoft supporters is not?
Well, I’d like to go out and say I’m a PC, but I can’t give Microsoft all the credit in that decision.
By the way, why is Microsoft able to benefit from the term PC? Last time I checked, PC stood for personal computer and Wikipedia defines that as “any computer whose original sales price, size and capabilities make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.” So regardless of the operating system, aren’t we all using PCs?
Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t I just as much as PC user with my Linux operating system as you are with your Mac operating system? And, no, I have not forgotten that MS-DOS was the catalyst making the personal computer a reality. But nowadays, Windows is just one of the operating systems that make our PC world go ‘round.
Do you automatically associate being a PC user with Microsoft Windows? If so, is it because we’ve been trained to think PC = Microsoft? Maybe. Look at the constant barrage of ads we’re faced with. It happens every single day with everything. We automatically call all tissues Kleenex, gelatin of all brands is Jell-O and no one flinches when asked to “Xerox it.”
Is Microsoft playing into our ad vulnerability? Worse, are we falling for it? Let me know what you think.
Finally, we may be seeing the end of the business card.
I always forget to bring my business cards to the events and conferences I attend. On the rare occasion I do remember to grab a small handful from my desk drawer, actually handing them out seems … so out of date. If I don’t even like carrying my own cards around, why should I expect someone else to want it? They smudge, they wrinkle (who wants to hand out a finger-printed and bent, tiny white card?) and they’re a bit of a hassle.
Plus, how many do they ship you in a box? A million? Who actually goes through all those? And information changes, you need to get another million shipped out to you and before you know it, you’re sitting on 5 million crinkled-up cards that no one (including you) actually wants.
When I attended the MIT EmTech Conference this week, I remembered to bring along my necessary (professional contact) evil. To my surprise, when I registered I did not get the usual name card on a promotional lanyard – I was handed what looked like a remote control (on a lanyard). When turned up to face me, it vibrated and beeped to life – displaying a brightly lit options screen and introducing itself as an nTAG.
Slightly bulky but surprisingly light, the nTag is built around the world’s first interactive name badge and provides a communication solution for the events and meetings industry. According to the site, the nTag (created in 2004 by Rick Borovoy and George Eberstadt) “pioneered face-to-face social networking solutions via wearable technology.”
Equipped with an electronic agenda, a messaging system, event information, your personal profile and contact information, and a way to wirelessly share this information nTAG to nTAG, you can practically say goodbye to your registration packet and business cards. And those “hello my name is” stickers? Never again. When you get within conversation-distance of someone wearing the nTAG, his name flashes up on your screen with the option to add as a contact.
On top of all that, the reusable devices eliminate all the waste (paper and time) of events packets.
All in all, the nTAG was useful and fun. I didn’t have to hand out a single business card (even though I’m dying to get rid of them) and I could update my profile and check out my contacts during the … umm … slower presentations.