CIO Symmetry

October 7, 2011  1:59 PM

How employees’ perceptions make the difference

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nontangible things that drive employee perceptions of a company and how they connect to job satisfaction. For instance, I have a friend who stayed at a low-paying, high-stress tech job because his boss took him out to lunch every Friday at a wood-paneled fancy restaurant and filled him in on all the corporate gossip. That lunch couldn’t have cost more than $30 a week, but it was enough to keep my friend content and pulling 65-hour workweeks for peanuts.

It’s not just my friend. Once, I was interviewing for a job that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to take. It was one of those situations where you kind of owe it to someone in your personal network to go to the interview, even though you know that you don’t want the position. What’s more, they couldn’t afford me — they knew it and I knew it. But the thing that gave me true anguish about turning them down? They had these great chairs. They were perfect: They contoured and supported, and made you want to be creative. Man, it’s been four years and I still think about those chairs!

On the flip side, I have another friend who quit a job because of Facebook, of all things. You see, her company’s network was aggressively locked down and she had put up with it for years (not to mention finding elaborate and innovative ways to get around its blockades). But then the company blocked Facebook at the API. It might have had valuable reasons for blocking the social media site, but that was the straw that broke this apathetic employee’s back: She felt that if she couldn’t be trusted to maintain her virus protection; not click on stupid, obvious Trojans; and maintain her Facebook usage to breaks and lunchtimes — well, it was clear that her company no longer respected her as a thinking adult.

As we face a possible double-dip recession, the greatest fear for many CIOs is that they have apathetic employees who are simply biding their time, waiting to leave. No one wants a dead-weight employee. You know what the guy with the steak lunch and the lady with the banned Facebook had in common with my coveted chairs? They’re all examples of employee perceptions of how much they are valued by the company. Whether justified or not, sometimes tangible gestures get translated into employee job satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

Sometimes, when times are tight and we can’t reward our employees with salary increases and are asking them to put up with five-year-old hoopty laptops, it’s up to the leadership team to keep thinking of employee retention strategies and ways to make it magical.

Arm those crappy laptop users with some cheap SSD drives so your IT workers aren’t constantly running out of storage space. Pillage those leftover monitors sitting in the empty cubicles from the last workforce reduction, and give your employees two or three if they want. It seems silly, but it really is the little things that keep your employees pleased with their decision to partner with your company. And it’s the little things that make them decide to break that partnership, either by leaving completely or by simply checking out while still gathering a paycheck.

The fabled dot-com boom days weren’t entirely off-base. We don’t have to buy everyone an Aeron chair, but concern for workers’ creature comforts can go a long way toward keeping them happy, without necessarily tapping a salary budget item. It all comes down to being creative about how you razzle-dazzle your workers and manage employee perceptions.

Speaking of salaries, we want to hear from you! How’s your personal bottom line this year? We’re conducting a salary and job satisfaction survey of CIOs and IT professionals. Your responses are completely confidential and will be only part of an accumulation of responses in the reporting. Not only will we send you a copy of our survey results, but you’ll also be able to download a copy of our latest research report on the changing role of the CIO. And as if that’s not enough, you can also enter to win our prize giveaway.

Take the survey!

October 4, 2011  5:44 PM

Strong passwords are more important than ever

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

I recently asked one of my sons for passwords to his online accounts, for gaming, email, etc. Not because I’m nosy but because I’m trying to be a responsible parent and home IT administrator, and having strong passwords is a good thing. One I got back was “QWERTY1234.” I made him change it.

It may not matter, though. Passwords are getting even easier to crack, thanks to dedicated graphics card processing, according to our U.K. affiliate, ComputerWeekly. But you already know it: The vast majority of passwords in the enterprise are easily guessable, and many companies still do not require strong passwords, or even new passwords every month or quarter or so.

Cloud computing, big data and consumerization are hot topics now, but the bottom line is that none of it matters without good security policies. But that does not seem to be the priority.

ComputerWeekly also reported on a Xantus survey of CIOs on cloud computing that ranked security fifth on a list of cloud computing concerns. The national SIM organization’s recent survey on the future of IT had security ranked eighth out of 10 on top management concerns this year.

This needs to change. Watch for’s IT priorities survey later this fall, and for a virtual seminar on cloud computing security, produced with and ISACA, in December.

October 3, 2011  7:24 PM

Whatever happened to last year’s promising iPad clones?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Things getting hectic as you enter Q4? It seems like no matter what you do, you still just keep feeling like you’re two steps behind. We know how it feels, and we’re here to make it better. We’ve chased down the best commentary and news tidbits from all around the Web to provide you with optimized reading material during your few snippets of free time. We’ve got the scoop on the Amazon Kindle Fire, why the smart grid has failed to come to fruition and the sad story behind so many promised 2010 iPad clones, all in tasty, bite-sized morsels.

• Is Jeff Bezos the new Steve Jobs? While we’re not as lavish with the praise as some bloggers, there is some credence to this prediction. Barnes & Noble stock fell a whopping 9% immediately after Amazon announced its contribution to the host of iPad clones. Perhaps Bezos is onto something?

• With green technology being the hottest trend of the 2010s, why has the concept of the smart grid failed to thrive in the U.S.? Boyd Cohen thinks it all points back to the shareholders.

• Juggling a desktop and a laptop computer along with your host of mobile gadgets? Here’s how to share a mouse and a keyboard across multiple computers. There’s a catch, though — it only works with Windows. Now if only it worked for tablets, too.

• What’s the sweet spot for optimal productivity with multiple monitors? Is two enough? Do you prefer five for a Mission Control spread, or nine for the full NORAD experience? Scott Hanselman makes the case for three monitors on a workstation.

• You’ve banged out a contract with your managed service provider, but how do you erase those nagging feelings that you missed something? Tam Harbert has a list of seven vendor contract imperatives that may surprise you.

• Remember the heady days of 2010, when you couldn’t swing a bat without hitting the news of yet another promised round of iPad clones? The brilliant Harry McCracken plays “whatever happened to” with a host of promising tablet devices, and guess what? Many of them never saw the light of day.

September 29, 2011  6:11 PM

What does the Amazon tablet PC mean for midmarket CIOs?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Amazon has announced the newest player in tablet devices, the Kindle Fire. The most amazing thing about the Amazon tablet PC isn’t its screen resolution, the Android guts or the partnerships with various content providers for instantaneous streaming via Amazon Prime. It also isn’t its feather-weight 14.8 ounces, despite a Gorilla Glass screen. It’s the price point — $199. It’s enough to make a CIO salivate, isn’t it?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire promises to destroy the small margin of the market left of non-iPad tablet devices. Before the news dropped on Wednesday, the most optimistic of the IT pundits guessed the price point for the new Amazon tablet PC would be $250 at the lowest. From a strategic vantage, it makes sense. Amazon dominates the e-reader market, so it has the luxury of making a wide profit margin. My Kindle was $189, and it’s got a black and white screen. Trying to navigate with the cursor reminds me of playing Pong in someone’s basement in 1984. Supposedly, Amazon will lose $50 per tablet with this pricing structure, so it’s pretty serious about knocking back everyone else.

While iPads in the enterprise are old news, midmarket companies have reserved shiny and fancy tablets for their top brass and star employees in key roles. With the bargain point of entry, the Amazon Fire sets itself up to become the tablet for every budget. In theory, we now have a tablet that is worthy of being deployed to every user in the midmarket company, possibly as a viable alternative to a Palm or BlackBerry. While the Amazon tablet PC will ship with a native email client, don’t assume that since its Android-based, you’ll be able to apply Android salty goodness to your Kindle Fire — Amazon is going to “curate” its app store. You’ll be dealing with a subset of Android business apps that will be at the whim of the mother ship. Even so, the bargain price could be just enough to persuade tablet-wary CIOs to finally take the plunge.

When discussing the Kindle Fire with a midmarket IT manager, he said, “The security holes are terrifying from a business perspective.” Another caveat: The proprietary Silk browser will route all Web traffic through a proxy server. Amazon will already know the users’ Amazon account, so you better believe that it’s going to harvest some of that behavior pattern information for business intelligence purposes. Given how much Amazon already demonstrates that it knows about my buying habits, I’m kind of creeped out.

What do you think? Have tablet devices finally dropped to the point where you’ll consider them for your second- and third-tier staff? What does the Amazon tablet PC mean for your mobility strategy? The comments are ready to start the discussion on cheap and easy tablet devices in the midmarket.

September 27, 2011  4:12 PM

HP management’s latest mistakes have ship foundering

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

By my reckoning, HP management hasn’t made a good decision since about 1999. After Lew Platt, HP did the following: hired Carly Fiorina, bought Compaq (which hadn’t yet digested Digital Equipment Corp.), fired Fiorina, hired and fired Mark Hurd, and hired and fired Leo Apotheker in less than a year (and made tons of other acquisitions). How long do you think former eBay chief Meg Whitman — named HP CEO last week — will last?

The HP Way,” it seems, is in some dire need of the stimulus dollars being spent on the rest of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The innovation culture has given way to a culture of pervasive corporate restructuring, refocusing and repositioning, the latest being the muddled message about divesting the PC and WebOS businesses. Meanwhile, the person probably best suited to guide HP since Platt all along, Ann Livermore, was sidestepped at least twice for the top job at HP and this year booted up to a board role.

In the midst of all that, Mark Hurd said, “Everything we do must be for the customer. If it’s not, then we need to reconsider why we’re doing it.” Customer focus certainly would be the best and most obvious purpose of the CEO, but too often the reality is that his or her main purpose is satisfying the shareholders, most of whom are not HP customers.

This is not exactly the “Innovator’s Dilemma,” but it does help explain how a company that rose to power on flat innovative management has become a giant ship drifting around, trying to find its way in the ever-changing currents of the post-dot-com seas. If Whitman is to succeed, she needs to simplify the message to shareholders, customers and employees alike. That may be difficult, when it’s hard to tell if there is a message left to tell.

September 26, 2011  6:09 PM

Easy and not-so-obvious ways to improve people skills

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Fall has fallen, and that sound you hear is the end of the year starting to whirr out of control. Stay on top of the latest blogerati posts with our handy little smorgasbord of IT-centric tidbits. We’ve got some insider scoop on a possible iPhone 5 release date and also loads of tips to improve people skills, as well as a discussion on whether it’s worth your time and money to chase down data reduction.

• Can you bank on your handshake? That’s one of 15 not-so-obvious tips that Kate Nasser lists to improve people skills and get ahead in an IT leadership role.

• Is corporate IT as we know it dead? The news that users are circumventing IT support when purchasing phones has Forrester analyst Matthew Brown defending the future of corporate IT.

• Is data reduction technology a wasted effort? Stephen Foskett takes a closer look at the ROI on data reduction technologies in the face of free compression and deduplication already present in many SSDs.

• Firms of all stripes wrestle with version management, but check out these practical tips for simplifying hardware and software registration.

• A little Zen for your work week: A fascinating look at how the stories heard time and again become the underpinning of our technological advancement, including a look at what Galileo has to do with the economy.

• A new key to the release of iPhone 5 and iOS 5 launch: Apple is forbidding its employees to take vacation during the second week of October. Could this really be it?

• If you think your job is tough, you don’t know the half of it. Survey respondents listed “director of information technology” as the most hated job of all time. Guess the survey respondents really worked with some CIOs who needed to improve people skills.

September 23, 2011  1:38 PM

What the new Facebook changes mean for IT consumerization

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Two months ago, I predicted “a huge exodus of Facebook users over to G+,” but Facebook isn’t going out without a fight. It continues to chase some of the innovations of Google+. Earlier this week, Facebook revealed a completely new methodology and user interface, much to the dismay of its users. Then on Thursday at the Facebook f8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced another upcoming series of new Facebook changes, including a massive redesign of the interface. Brace yourself for a flurry of unending complaints that will undoubtedly clog up your status stream. The Open Graph protocol and new Timeline will hit Facebook in the next few weeks — or if you’ve got a developer account, you can start using it right now.

Of course, if you are using any form of social media, you’ve already rolled your eyes over the moans of change from the other people in your social stream. It’s getting a little tired: Netflix changed its pricing tiers three weeks ago, and many of those customers lit up social media networks with their complaints, too. Netflix is now expecting to lose a million customers based on this change. That translates to more than $15 million in lost revenue per month due to an internal structure change with a lousy name. (Come on … Qwikster? Really?)

An interesting distinction is that few people are saying that they are going to leave over the new Facebook changes. Why? Well, Facebook doesn’t hit your wallet. I was going to say “it’s free,” but we all know that there are intangible costs associated with social media. Interestingly, the CEO of Netflix has announced a partnership at Facebook F8 as well, hitching his own horse to the Facebook wagon, perhaps in attempt to regain some of that lost market share.

Back in the day, a company’s IT department was a benevolent overlord. The IT guy got your email set up, reset your passwords and, if you were lucky, gave you an upgraded monitor when you brought him cookies (not that I’ve ever successfully bribed an IT person — cough). Users were just that: USERS. They took what they got, and while they might grumble in the cafeteria about their locked-down access, they certainly never dreamed that they could affect change within the IT department.

Contrast that with today’s environment: Between the BYOD madness and the consumerization of IT, we’ve empowered our users to think for themselves — whether we like it or not.  On Tuesday, Scot Petersen asked what IT consumerization means to different people. He suggests buying cycles or the way that IT manages consumer products in the business, but I suggest that IT consumerization has another facet: The consumer now feels empowered to not only influence but also push back at the decisions made by the technological trendsetters. This grumbling about the new Facebook changes from Facebook f8 on the very same platform is fairly meta but certainly not a blip. Expect the consumer to become more vocal about questioning decisions and actions taken by IT, both inside and outside your company.

While the consumerization of IT has led to some amazing things (iPads in the workplace, anyone?), it’s a double-edged sword that the savvy CIO will consider when transitioning change to her user base.

What do you think? The comments are ready to get down and dirty with the new Facebook changes revealed at Facebook f8 as well as the question of user empowerment.

September 20, 2011  5:33 PM

‘IT consumerization’ means different things to different people

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

We’re hearing a lot about the “consumerization of IT.” What does this really mean?

There are two parallel lines of thought: One is that IT consumerization is a change in the typical buying cycle of enterprise technology buyers. Whereas before cycles were longer — sometimes years on particular products — now they’re being reduced to cycles that resemble those of consumer buyers: two to five months.

The other idea is that IT consumerization is about how consumer products — smartphones, iPads, social media — have entered the enterprise and as a result are changing the way IT manages such products. There’s more potential than reality in this trend at this point, but the leaders will embrace the idea rather than fight it even though major issues, like security, will have a say in how the trend evolves.

What is the reality in your workplace? Are both of these trends evident?

September 19, 2011  6:48 PM

Don’t hold your breath: It’s a long wait for the iPad 3 launch

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Twiddling your thumbs waiting for the iPad 3 launch? We’ve got scoop on the hottest tidbits from around the Web, including a bit of a sticky situation for Google and the creepy potential of big data.

• Cross this off your Christmas list: The iPad 3 launch will be sometime in 2012.

• Nietzsche said that when you look into the void, it looks back. Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio asks the same question of big data.

• Proof that too big can be a bad thing: Google will face a Senate antitrust panel, as its growth is raising some eyebrows.

• Small businesses think they’re innovative, but maybe they’re just fooling themselves. A new study suggests that few small businesses bring anything truly new to the marketplace and instead merely improve upon an existing service.

• Netflix isn’t the first major corporation to anger its customer base. It joins Cisco, McDonald’s and Research in Motion in the Questionable Strategy Wall of Shame.

• Dreaming of a day when your computer can read your mind? That day might be sooner than you think.

September 14, 2011  7:02 PM

Target leaves Amazon e-commerce, gets slammed by Missoni for Target

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

As a CIO, it’s your worst nightmare: The marketing department dreams up some fantastic promotion aimed at the very core of its prime demographic. The team stirs up a public frenzy with slick advertisements and viral buzz, imprinting the release date into the consumer’s brain. Then when the fateful day arrives, the servers crumble and grind to a halt, leaving consumers and the entire company staring at the IT team for underdelivering.

We’ve seen it time and again. It’s only been a short four months since the Lady Gaga Amazon e-commerce cloud failure . Unfortunately, this time mass merchandiser Target was caught unprepared to handle the onslaught. Its much-anticipated Missoni for Target collection was released on at 6 Tuesday morning, grinding the website to a halt.

Target had depended on the Amazon e-commerce platform to host and run its online presence for a decade. After spending two years developing its own infrastructure, it redesigned and launched the website on its own platform three weeks ago. Then it saw one heck of a christening with the Missoni for Target collection, which drew more traffic than Target normally gets on the busiest shopping day of the year. The eager consumers basically created an organic DOS attack on the site.

While pundits are certain that the Target brand won’t suffer long-term damage from this fiasco, it still begs the question of why Target was caught without adequate tech for the promotion. It had to have some inkling that the Missoni for Target collection was going to be huge, and that frantic consumers would hammer the website. While I understand that Target made a strategic move to support its own infrastructure, wouldn’t a cloud failsafe be logical in the event of traffic spikes? The retailer should be no stranger to obscene amounts of traffic and unusual data. I tested the site throughout the release day and found it still unusable more than 16 hours after the collection’s release. That’s some serious loss of usability, right there.

While the smoke is still clearing, I’ll be curious to hear details on the point of failure. Was the new platform incapable of handling the traffic? Bandwidth? Some facet of the shopping cart system? Would this have happened if Target had stayed on the Amazon e-commerce platform? It’s possible that we’ll never know, but for now, there are a lot of angry Twitter and Facebook posters who found themselves empty-handed after items sold out on Tuesday. Unlike Amazon’s quick resolution of the Lady Gaga fiasco, Target’s IT team will have an uphill battle to restore consumer confidence.

Even the big guys fail and fail big sometimes. Judging from their track record with data spikes in the past, I suspect that had they acted like a midmarket company and left their e-commerce in the cloud, the Missoni for Target release would have been all win.

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