CIO Symmetry

May 7, 2008  6:53 PM

Will a Chief Blogging Officer get a Golden Parachute?

Roger Crawford Roger Crawford Profile: Roger Crawford

 Excellent little news blurb on HealthLeaders Media this morning: “Chief Blogging Officer title catching on with corporations.”

Chief Blogging Officer.

Ok, one more time: Chief Blogging Officer.

The press release notes that more than 11 percent of Fortune 500 companies have blogs. Some of those Fortune 500s – Coca-Cola, Marriott and Kodak are those mentioned by name – have chief bloggers. The main role of the King of The Blog (my name, not theirs) is to promote a brand voice and engage customers.

I have a couple questions for these companies, though: Is this a legit C-level job? How far would the parking spot be from the door? What’s the number on the golden parachute you’re prepared to offer? And, most importantly, are you using WordPress or Blogger?

What kind of negotiation leverage does a potential Chief Blogging Officer have at a company like Coca-Cola? Would the number of days he or she be allowed to wear sandals and shorts in the office have to be predetermined? Would there be a discount on Coke bottle glasses? How would Coke feel about the copious amounts of Mountain Dew the King of the Blog would likely drink?

And what about Kodak? Would the KotB’s Flikr stream or Photobucket account have to be shut down? And, besides, who uses film anymore these days? I certainly wouldn’t trade in my point-and-shoot digital for film. Please. I don’t care if I’m capturing the Moments of Your Life if I have to wait for them to be developed – I’m the King of the Blog; I’ve got a deadline to meet. And the only thing that is going to bring this Kodak-branded blogpost together is a picture of a monkey smoking a cigarette!

Marriott. Oh, Marriott. You might have the biggest bargaining chip on the table:

Marriot: We’re a hotel chain, you know.

Potential King of the Blog: OK. So you want to know about my experience with hotels?

M: No. What we’re offering you is a place to live for free that isn’t in your parents’ basement.

PKotB: Deal!

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I decided to check out these corporate-sponsored blogs. The Coca-Cola blog’s latest story focuses on finding the Coke logo on postcards. Gee, all this logo hunting sure is making me thirsty…

The Kodak blog isn’t quite as straightforward in pushing its agenda. One of the most recent posts is a story written by Steve DiLullo, and he chats about a recent cruise he took. Throughout, there are some pretty sharp-looking images that Steve, apparently, took on his own. But, lo and behold, the digital camera Steve brought is pretty “hydrophobic.” Fortunately, Kodak makes a waterproof disposable!

Bill Marriott himself wrote the most recent post for the hotel chain. Bill Marriot? CEO and KoTB? There’s got to be some sort of conflict of interest going on there. His May 1 post talks about how awesome the Marriott hotels are because of the history that’s occurred in them. Well, FDR didn’t actually have his inaugural ball in a Marriott in the 1930s, but the company did purchase the hotel that happened in. That’s got to count for something, right?

These blogs are accomplishing the goals they set out with: promote the brand, establish a voice and engage customers. In fact, Mr. Marriott’s blog (that’s how the commenters address Bill) garners between three and five thoughts and comments per post. Not bad, especially when you consider that all of them talk about how great his hotels are.

(Apparently the people who frequent these sites don’t realize that comments on blogs are supposed to be inflammatory and debasing. But that’d never happen on a huge corporation’s site since everyone in the world loves big companies.)

What Coca-Cola, Kodak and Marriott are failing to realize – or maybe they realize it and just plow on ahead anyway – is that these posts are as transparent as my ex-girlfriend. When you’re trying to establish yourself in a Web 2.0 or social networking environment, the question readers and users are first going to ask is: What is this new person bringing to the table? If you’ve got an idea to share, a story to tell or an insightful comment to make, chances are good you’ll be accepted there. But if the aim is to pushing a product or mine users for market research, you’ll get sniffed out pretty quickly.

That is, of course, the exact opposite from our mission here at CIO Symmetry. (By the way, for the latest news and trends happening in the midmarket, check out!)

May 6, 2008  4:42 PM

CIO blogs lift us up where we belong…

Roger Crawford Roger Crawford Profile: Roger Crawford

We often kick around the idea here whether or not CIOs are reading blogs. It’s a friendly argument, but we haven’t been able to come to a conclusive decision yet. So, as I surf through my Google News updates and through my RSS readers, I always keep looking for those elusive CIO blogs that’ll prove the point that, yes, you are reading – and even writing – blogs.

This morning I happened onto a real gem. CTO/CIO perspectives is written by Peter Kretzman. Kretzman describes himself as an information technology and online industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in the business.

His blog, his about me page notes, covers “broad topics of interest to senior executives, giving the CTO/CIO perspective on such things as working as a member of a company’s executive team, how to focus product and application development, enhance and maintain world-class operations, and the care and feeding of technical staff.”

Yesterday as I was surfing the vast Interwebs for any and everything CIO related, I came across Joel Dehlin’s blog. Dehlin is the CIO for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also maintains, what seems to be, an active and popular blog. While Dehlin doesn’t confine his blog space to just the latest and greatest CIO news – he does tell personal anecdotes, but I haven’t found any pictures of his pets on the site, yet – he does touch on CIO issues from time to time.

What most interests me about Dehlin’s and Kretzman’s writing is that both obviously have technical experience and could easily get mired down by the nuts-and-bolts type of discussions that may be relevant to only a handful of people. Instead, both made the conscious decision to write about common information technology issues and offer real-life antecdotes to make the whole a little easier to swallow and have a more general appeal. Their writing styles are straightforward and charming in their desire to help their fellow readers.

So, at least for today, I win this argument. CIOs are writing blogs. And you’re reading them, too, as the comments on these blogs can attest. Well done, my midmarket CIOs. It’s like an unexpected gift or a lollypop at the end of a doctor’s appointment.

May 5, 2008  1:01 PM

MSM Monday RoundUp

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

So this is the mainstream media Monday roundup. And Fridays, that’s when we post the weekly wrapup. See what I did there?

Shipping out from Boston:

All this year he looks at it! Finally he should come to his senses!

Some dude in Nigeria celebrates 30 years of ripping off the elderly.

Security experts might want to polish up their resumes.

HP geniuses discover new computing element. Will Hunting somehow not involved.

Castro’s brother lets everyone in on his Minesweeper addiction.

May 2, 2008  12:23 PM

Weekly Wrap-Up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

What we did this week:

Dug in on mobile computing and pretty much freaked out that iPhone might go down to $199.

Brought our laptops to the Masters.

Watched Congress do what they do best. Nothing.

Finally returned that copy of Tropic of Cancer we checked out 37 years ago.

What we’re doing this weekend:

Playing final Jeopardy to our heart’s content.

Brushing up on our Mint Julep recipes.

May 1, 2008  5:31 PM

Please don’t be like Buzz

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize winner and sports scribe for the ages, has become irrelevant. And insane.

The author of the phenomenal Friday Night Lights, an outstanding book about life and football in a Texas oil town, pretty much lost his mind on HBO’s CostasNow the other night. You know that first rant in Network, when our angry messiah spouts off from a news desk? It was like that, only instead of speaking for the general population, Bissinger was piping up for a handful of angry, aging sportswriters.

His target: Will Leitch, editor of sports blog And blogging in general.

Bissinger in a nutshell: Blogs are bad, cruel, unprofessional and useless. Professional sportswriters work hard and deserve to be read on that basis alone. I’ve spent years working to “perfect the craft” (gag!), and you and your Interweb come in here and take my readers away and pick on me.

Look, I know the frustration. The newspaper industry is tanking. Jobs are gone, wages won’t go up and papers are getting smaller. I love, love, love newspapers, and this crushes me.

But I get something the great Bissinger doesn’t. We can’t stop it. There is an organic aspect to industry change that can be resisted and shouted at but not halted. The cycles vary, but every industry will at some point shuffle, shake up and be spit out, looking quite a bit different on the other side.

Bissinger’s idiocy here is that he treats Leitch like some guy who just got out of bed and decided to start posting on the Internet one day. You would think a journalist would have taken a few minutes to look Leitch up and find out that he’s sort of a, you know, professional writer.

So don’t be like Buzz. When things start to change and they don’t look like the IT you used to know, keep an open mind. Listen to your staff members, ask them for help and ideas. Do NOT become a raving lunatic. Do NOT batten down the hatches unless you have a damn good reason. Do start reading Deadspin. It is so much more fun than your newspaper sports section (minus the fact that your local paper will obviously focus on your local teams).

Leitch should be commended for keeping his cool while Bissinger rants. He saved his best comments for his site. Instead of exploding on air, he went back to the Internet and picked up exactly where he left off. That makes him smarter than a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Here’s a link to this catastrophe, as hosted by Gawker Media, which owns Deadspin. I should warn you that it is loaded with foul language and bad, cruel, unprofessional and useless comment. It all comes from Bissinger.

April 29, 2008  7:42 PM

Fencing for recognition: Sword fight your way to the executive table

Roger Crawford Roger Crawford Profile: Roger Crawford

Normally, I’d take a pass on commenting on a report like the one EDS recently published entitled “CIO at the Table.” But today I feel like this could be a useful read for you, my midmarket CIOs.

As with most of the reports I come across, there isn’t anything entirely earthshaking or world changing about this. The main thrust of the article is about including CIOs at the decision-making table at any given company.

“In either case, technology isn’t something you can ignore in the 21st century. No matter what your industry, IT is at the center of the action… Yet many organizations continue to misstep, not quite understanding the role of the CIO, the part that IT technicians should play in daily operations, how to make investment decisions, set sequence and priority, or even the best way to capitalize on the latest innovations to expand and change the products and services they are taking to market … What most senior leaders fail to grasp along the way is that making IT work has as much to do with business as it does with technology itself … But you have to do more than invest in good infrastructure and applications. You have to integrate and align IT with the enterprise’s overarching goals.”

I just went ahead and grabbed the most salient points of the article. But, by all means, you should read the whole report, even though it’s aimed more directly at your CEO than it is at you.

It does, however, provide some insight into the way your boss is trying to wrap his or her mind around what you do on a daily basis and why a good CIO is vital to the company.

Maybe I should say the way your CEO isn’t thinking about your job. EDS suggests an expanded role for the CIO with a more strategic vision for the whole company and IT governance in general. It’s a decent argument and could provide a few thrusts and ripostes for your next performance review.

April 29, 2008  7:29 PM

Vista steps into users’ crosshairs

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

There’s a scene in the classic film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut that finds an army colonel’s holograph machine cutting out as he discusses strategy with his troops. Long story short, it is Windows 98’s fault. Bill Gates gets shot in the head. 

But now the colonel’s frustrations have returned, nearly a decade later, when faced with Windows Vista. The New York Times’ tech blog last week got into the “Save Windows XP” campaign, which is perpetuated by users who don’t want to be stuck with Vista when XP contracts are phased out. 

I’ve got half a mind to sign up myself. I use Vista on my home computer, and I can’t say I’m thrilled. 

Two things:

1. Startup is slow. More memory, you say? Forget it. I use the thing to surf the Internet, listen to music and watch Netflix On Demand (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is so great it hurts). I don’t need more memory. I need an OS that gets out of the way.

2. What’s with all the notices and pop-ups? I understand this is all for my own good and computer security. But I’m not dim. And I have my own security software. Yes, I can customize this. But not easily. I tried a few times and realized that beating Vista into submission has achieved “project level,” something I need to tackle on a weekend afternoon. 

Here’s a bit from the Times’ blog:  “Mr. [Christopher] Liddell [Microsoft’s CFO] dismissed claims that some customers were reluctant to buy Vista machines. ‘There are no Vista-related issues at all,’ he declared. “

That’s like saying there are no issues with likely steroid user and now possible child-dater Roger Clemens. Yeah, we can’t prove it. But dude isn’t allowed anywhere near my medicine cabinet or teenage cousins.

Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer has said the final date for new XP contracts could be extended if users ask for it. But for now it is standing still at June 30.

C’mon now, that’s way too soon. IT folks have said to me, and I’m sure to Steve Lohr at the Times, that they don’t want Vista. Period.

I’m not saying Vista is worthless. Just don’t try to tell me it’s great. And listen to your customers.

Oh, I’m not getting out of this without at least some South Park computer-humor action. Mac, meet PC.

April 28, 2008  7:26 PM

Design Flaws?

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

The folks over at the blog are reporting that SAP has delayed its Business ByDesign rollout. Apparently, there are some bugs to be worked out in the on-demand ERP program, which is still less than a year old.

The delays could push as far as late 2009, according to German news source Handelsblatt. What’s not really clear right now is where it is delayed. The service, aimed at midmarket companies, is currently available in the U.S. though it has been a slow climb in user adoption for SAP. To be fair, the thing is still less than a year old.

Will SAP CEO Henning Kagermann hit his 10,000 users by 2010 promise? It was already looking like a tough road and now the spring potholes are starting to show up.

I’ll be in Orlando next week for Sapphire, SAP’s big annual conference. So hopefully I can learn a bit more down there. There’s even a free Eric Clapton show for attendees, though I won’t be attending. I prefer my rock without a layer of extra-thick smugness.

April 28, 2008  4:24 PM

MSM Monday Round-Up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Maiden voyage here for this MSM (that’s mainstream media) Monday round-up. Inspirational props are due to Slate’s “Today’s Papers,” all the Gawker sites and everybody else who thought to do this before us.  But the short of it is, this is what caught our eye in the fishwrap this week. 

Cracking the bottle against the bow: 

“Touchscreen? Full browser? Who’s gonna buy that?

“If it’s broke, we’ll fix it. But it will never be broke.”

E-mail voting for the troops?  I mean, it’s not like we’re going to be there for four years.

I CAN HAZ MY LNGWGE BK?!? is cool. But nothing beats an old-fashioned mix-tape for showing her how psychotic you are.

April 25, 2008  2:07 PM

IT staff to CIOs: Pay us more!

Roger Crawford Roger Crawford Profile: Roger Crawford

A recent phone survey of 1,400 CIOs across the country revealed that offering increased compensation is the greatest incentive for IT staff to stay with a company.

The survey, developed by Robert Half Technology, asked CIOs this question: “Which of the following elements have you found most effective at improving IT staff retention?”

The top three responses were:

  1. Increased compensation 27%
  2. Professional development or training 21%
  3. Flexible schedules 18%

(Check out the press release for the rest of the results.)

For a second, I thought maybe the survey takers were responding to the question: What’s the best way to hire and retain auto mechanics, CEOs, convenience store clerks, killer whale trainers – or reporters.

Wow, imagine that. Money is the key issue at the heart of retaining employees. Well, I never.

What might be even more shocking are the conclusions that Robert Half Technology extrapolated from this survey, which, in my opinion, are worth reprinting here:

  • Pay competitively.  Periodically benchmark employee compensationagainst industry-standard ranges to ensure your salaries are keeping pace.  Robert Half Technology produces an annual Salary Guide with salary ranges for more than 60 IT positions.
  • Offer and promote training.  Provide IT staff access to the courses and certification programs they need to grow their careers.  Make sure employees are aware of professional development opportunities.
  • Support work/life balance.  To prevent teams from burning out, ensure that workloads are realistic. Encourage employees to ask for help when they need it, and consider bringing in project professionals to help during peak periods.

That’s some skilled analysis.

It’s easy for me to sit here and lob grenades at these kinds of surveys — and the accompanying results — but there may be some merit in pointing out that after money, training was the next concern that CIOs feel will help retain IT staff. This is a pretty solid point.

Working as a midmarket CIO offers you a different opportunity than being in an enterprise company. I bet you get to know your employees. You might even hold the door for them on the way into the office in the morning. Use that familiarity and train the people you work with. Not only will your employees appreciate the way you’re helping them enrich their professional lives, it’ll also make the operations that they manage for you run that much more smoothly. (And once they have those skills, they will, no doubt, use them to leverage a new position at a company that pays better. See survey result number one above.)

Think about it. Remember the first day you learned how to fix a transmission or tie a fisherman’s knot or sauté an onion in oil? Didn’t you feel enriched at the end of the day? Maybe you wanted to get back out there the next day and do it all over again. I bet your employees would feel the same way about using that new cooling technique they learned about.

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