Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The rise of intelligent machines will benefit everyone

Despite public fears we will soon enjoy a future powered by intelligent machines! Take a look at my recent article for CIO.com to see several ways that A.I. and machine learning will make our everyday lives better.

http://bit.ly/2zMk0gU

Friday, September 1, 2017

Blockchain is about to make you richer - what you should know

Although Blockchain is a hot topic in the world of technology, few people understand what it does or how it could become relevant to people on an individual basis.  Check out this brief explanation and targeted examples of how Blockchain is poised to make all of us richer.

https://www.cio.com/article/3221357/consumer-electronics/blockchain-might-fatten-your-wallet-heres-what-you-should-know.html

Digital Emotions - Silly Icons or Crucial Communication?

A new way to communicate has invaded interactions all over the globe.  Although less than 20 years have passed since they were introduced, emojis and emoticons have firmly embedded themselves in much of what humans say or write.  But are they useful in business communication and interactions?  Check out this latest article:

https://www.cio.com/article/3214489/leadership-management/digital-emotions-can-supercharge-your-communication-skills.html

Thursday, May 25, 2017

For aspiring IT professionals college may no longer be a good investment

In the United States going to college has become both tradition and a rite of passage.  Yet, the decision to pursue higher education has never had bigger stakes.  With costs rising into the stratosphere while relevance shrinks, would the pursuit of a college degree pass the most basic ROI "sniff test"?

Read my latest blog where I explore this topic and discuss an emerging alternative:  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How a single passenger cost United Airlines $1 Billion

Think you can do without cyber security training? So did United Airlines and one passenger with a cellphone camera just cost them $1 billion and counting.

 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Become a security expert - it's easier than you think

With cyber security being all the rage in 2017, many IT leaders are worried about what to do or where to start.  If you know where to put your focus, you'll discover that becoming an expert is surprisingly straightforward.

Here is where you can start: http://bit.ly/2p68mqP

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Speed Kills (productivity)

We have learned how to work quickly, be more efficient, and make rapid decisions.  Yet, in our quest to "go faster, do more", we are missing out on the critically important, but tiny details.

Here is what we could all learn from a Japanese tea ceremony: http://bit.ly/2nMTGjZ

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Security technology is going mainstream

New evolutions in security technology are going to change the way we live and work across the world.  This new blog explores two areas where you will see an immediate, powerful impact: http://bit.ly/2lcKrVh

Friday, January 27, 2017

How to become CIO when you're stuck

Most IT leaders plateau in their careers, never quite making it to the top.  Are you trying to make it over that final hurdle?  Here are some things that you need to know: http://bit.ly/2jnorVG

Friday, January 6, 2017

Customer service no longer provides value for most companies

Just as the process of evolution continually shapes species across the Earth, so does it also guide the strategies of corporations.  We've always been taught that excellent customer service was one of the keys to gaining and keeping customers.  Yet, recent high-profile examples show us that this may no longer be the case.

http://www.cio.com/article/3154622/internet/the-best-customer-service-now-comes-from-you.html

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

You must be a hands-on CIO to succeed

Please check out my latest blog, where I explain why you must be hands-on as a CIO.  I give three examples of what that could mean and how to get there in your career.

http://www.cio.com/article/3151516/leadership-management/why-every-cio-needs-to-be-a-hands-on-leader-to-succeed.html

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking the Pain Out of Cloud Adoption

You no longer have to be an IT expert to take full advantage of the cloud.  Many of the mistakes that leaders made in the past can now be avoided by taking advantage of 3rd party expertise. 

Check out my recent blog on CIO.com:

http://www.cio.com/article/3146132/cloud-computing/what-you-dont-know-about-cloud-adoption-doesnt-have-to-hurt-you.html

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Work Face-to-Face, Answer the Phone, and Be More Successful

Choosing to live and work "in person" will pay huge dividends in your career progression and personal satisfaction.  I tackle this topic in my latest blog on CIO.com:

http://www.cio.com/article/3140455/work-face-to-face-answer-the-phone-and-be-more-successful

Monday, November 14, 2016

Digital Leadership

In my recent blog on CIO.com, I explore what it means to be a digital leader.  I also give direct steps on how to successfully embrace digital leadership in your career.

Take a look:
http://www.cio.com/article/3138529/digital-leadership-defined

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Venue

I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who continues to read my Simple CIO blog posts and musings.  I was asked to move my venue to the ICN/IDG contributor network, aka CIO.com.  You can check out my latest post entitled "If you're just thinking about the cloud it's already too late".  Just click aqui.

My plan is to continue publishing blogs to this site as well so don't abandon me!  This site on blogger.com will allow me to write about topics that are especially important to me and to you as well but more on the "opinion" side...

-Christopher

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Video Games & Office Hours

Just recently Amazon has begun testing something almost blasphemous in the America Corporate environment.  Beginning this month, a sub-section of the company will begin working a 30-hour week - while remaining full-time employees.  Amazon's stated goal is to determine whether or not this type of approach to managing employees can pay enough dividends that it can be extended to its entire workforce.

I am extremely interested in seeing how this experiment pans out for a number of reasons.  Why you might ask?  I could write five blog posts on why, but the biggest reason why I am fascinated is because this strategy appears to be rooted, at least partly, in video game design theory.  Amazon is clearly conducting a very intricate, highly analytical psychological experiment upon its workforce.  But are they inventing the psychology or did it originate somewhere else?

There are many people who play online video games and many more that don't.  Yet, video games are some of the most highly profitable and significant entertainment products ever made.  You don't believe so?  Take a close look at the two numbers to understand the significance of gaming.

  • In 2015, the total cumulative box office for all the movies shown in theaters within the United States came to just about $11 Billion.
  • During the same year of 2015, total sales for all video games purchased in the United States almost reached $24 Billion.
Yes, Hollywood has its stars, franchises, and of course the annual Academy Awards.  But from a business perspective, movies as a form of entertainment are merely the "poor relatives" of the gaming industry.

One of the most successful online games of all time (not World of Warcraft) was titled "Destiny" and first came out in Q3, 2014.  For several years before its release, the studio behind the game, Bungie, had a number of doctoral level scientists working to develop behavioral psychology that would integrate into the game's mechanics.  The goal was to maximize player involvement, loyalty, and overall play time.  For a in-depth look at what they did you can look here to see the Reddit article that goes into the detail about what Dr. John Hopson and his team did to mold the Destiny player experience.

Tying this information back to Amazon, I want to focus on several aspects of the psychological gaming theory utilized by Bungie that has direct applicability.  Borrowing liberally from the information laid out in the Reddit article, I believe that Amazon is going to focus heavily on the evaluation of what is called "Fixed Ratio".

Fixed Ratio definition:  "(It's) a very distinct pattern that gives a burst of activities to do at a time but (is) then followed by a long pause."

Rather than requiring the workers to follow a standard (minimum) 40 hour work week that implicitly rewards time spent with "butt in seat", Amazon is specifically constraining the available amount of time to complete tasks.  This represents a gigantic shift in thinking for the traditional American worker.  Most of us have been inculcated with a belief that long hours in the office are good and that with a willingness to stay late and/or work weekends, the time to complete a task can be stretched.  Amazon is basically saying to that philosophy: "Nope, you've got 30 hours and no more to get all of your tasks done.  Now go!"

Another concept that Amazon is seemingly aiming to tackle deals with the subject of "Avoidance".  This term, often associated with procrastination, refers to the tendency of humans to avoid doing hard or unpleasant tasks as long as possible in order to avoid "pain".  In a video game like Destiny, this behavior might manifest as doing simple low risk activities like "Patrol".  However, in terms of the story related to Destiny the most important but most difficult activity is referred to as "Raiding".  

In the video game, players are forced to tackle the hardest tasks if they ever want to progress.  And progressing is fun.  In the workplace, completing a project, innovating a new product, or landing a sale is much more important than filling the copier with paper or making a fresh pot of coffee.  By creating a scarcity of time in which employees can work, Amazon appears to be explicitly emphasizing the requirement/reward of doing the harder, more important work first and de-prioritizing non-value added "make work".  Another side effect of introducing scarcity into the available work hours is the tacit emphasis on collaboration.  Just as in video games, players (or employees in this case), almost universally find more success working in teams as opposed to individual effort.  We might be seeing a very clever strategy by Amazon to create an "organic" desire for people to work together within its workplace rather than mandating collaboration as a rule.

We should all watch this experiment very closely to see whether it works well enough to for Amazon to take it corporate-wide.  Imagine how the entire working experience would change if, instead of dreading a grindingly long work week, you came in eagerly knowing that the clock starts ticking the moment you step into your office.

Would you be more productive, energetic, and enthusiastic if your employer constrained your work hours rather than promoting them while holding you to the same production output levels?

It looks like our work places may start to feel like action video games if Amazon has its way...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Connecting Your World

Imagine that you lead the technology functions as CIO or Head of IT for a global business.  Your operations extend across four continents, all with different regional and logistical problems.  As you might expect, the company is going to look to you to ensure that business in every country is empowered with the same IT resources - networking, applications, phones (telecom), and systems.  How do you go about ensuring that the technological needs of all your company's employees are met? 

Let's take the scenario a little further.  Up until today your company has operated solely within the United States. Due to a large acquisition, the company has, overnight, inherited operations in Europe, South America, and Africa.

As might be expected, there are many answers to this question, all of which will have some merit.  The interesting thing is that this scenario is not really new or esoteric.  It happens all the time, especially when an influx in business capital opens up all sorts of new opportunities for previously static companies.  More than one CIO has been faced with the mandate to extend the IT portfolio of a U.S.-based company into regions where the leadership has no experience or business contacts.

The answer to the question, "What to do?" can derived from a return to basics.  In order to deliver IT services to multiple locations across the globe the "price of entry" or starting point is the conception and formation of a worldwide network (WAN).  This structure is the backbone required to connect your IT services and functions to all locations.  Without a foundational network, almost no IT services can be provisioned or delivered.  Yet, this return to basics can be a very painful journey for even the most season IT veterans.  Why?  Because providing network services is completely dependent upon the ability to delivery raw Internet bandwidth to any location.  With the advances in Internet service and availability in many cities most people (IT folks included) believe that this progress is a universal occurrence.  The facts are that while cities are easy to network, most of the United States and the rest of the world are still rural.  Outside the city environment, Internet service availability is far from being a given.  Telecommunications service, be it phones, cellular, or Internet bandwidth, is handled much differently in rural areas and is almost always provided by committee.  In other words, in the countryside the number of potential telecom companies who participate in delivering service is much, much greater than a city dweller would expect.

This juncture is where many CIOs make a fundamental yet very avoidable mistake.  By understanding that bandwidth is key, the CIO and staff quite often set about establishing Internet service coverage by entering into contracts with local telecom and bandwidth providers.  Initially this doesn't seem like a bad idea because each contract signed represents progress.  However, in areas that are more rural or remote, contract negotiation becomes more problematic.  Take for example just the State of Texas (USA).  In Texas there are just about 26,000 telecom providers.  If your company has field operations that are spread out in many rural areas, you could be facing the prospect of managing dozens if not hundreds of contracts for just one State!  

Now imagine facing the same prospect in a foreign country - different laws, different language, foreign business practices and cultures.  How are you going to manage all of those aspects when you are very likely facing time pressures to bring up and extend your IT systems - yesterday?  The problem becomes quite daunting indeed.  So what is the solution?

The answer comes not from better contract management skills but from telecom aggregation.  Many years ago global companies realized what a nightmare it could be if they had to engage each and every provider across the world in order to stand up a global network.  This problem was initially posed to the giant telecommunications providers of the time - AT&T, GlobalCom, BT, NTT, DT.  These giants began to offer services where they would offer to deal with each telecom provider on the behalf of the business customer.  Through aggregation a company could establish a 1:1 relationship with a telecom giant who would handle, on behalf of that company, all of the contracts across all the geographical region.  Talk about true one-stop-shopping!

Over the progression of several decades many other aggregating companies have stepped into the competitive arena.  It has been just such as company (Masergy) that has helped me solve the problems of establishing and maintaining a highly dynamic, changing global network over the years.

Remember that you don't have to do it yourself.  Aggregating services can be incredible resources to use if you ever find yourself in charge of operating a global IT shop.  There are many from which to choose so always do your homework to ensure that you find the right fit.  But once you do, hand over the heavy lifting to the experts so that you can focus on the truly important tasks of being a global IT leader.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Staying Relevant

Imagine that the year is 2004 and you are a CIO.  It's been less than five years since Y2K and companies like Google, Amazon, and eBay are still very much a new phenomena.  The role of the CIO, which emerged in the late 1990s as a corporate force, is one of the hottest new positions in corporations around the world.  You are riding high on a wave of prestige having just been given a seat with the senior executives and are regularly presenting at board meetings.  It seems like you are just coming into your own and can see an actual path to the top chair - the actual CEO position.  This is not a dream - Bob Willett became the CIO of Best Buy in 2001 and quickly ascended to run the entire company as CEO just a few years later.

There are a few naysayers out there including writer Nicholas Carr.  A few years earlier he wrote a book, essentially becoming the lone voice saying that the CIO position was doomed.  He believed that the CIO role was simply an over-hyped reaction to the Internet/Dotcom bubble which only recently has begun to ebb.  Now this year (remember we're still in 2004) on May 1 he sat down with the Editor-In-Chief, Abbie Lundberg, of CIO Magazine to double down on the assertions in his book.    Carr is saying things like:

(IT Innovation will be outsourced) "I think there will continue to be lots of innovation in corporate IT. But it will take place at the infrastructural level, it will be driven by vendors, and it will be shared."

And on the role of the CIO:

(The importance of the CIO role will fade away) "I don’t believe that it’s essential that it always be a C-level position. In a lot of companies, that’s probably not necessary. It might make perfect sense to have the CIO report to the CFO or the COO. A lot of the hype that surrounded the CIO role during the Internet boom, particularly, was the sense that the CIO was driving strategy. "

Like many other CIOs you join in the chorus of boos and cat-calls aimed in Carr's direction.  With the importance of IT in the corporate environment, the CIO position is here to stay.

On your way home from the office on a crisp Fall evening you are kidnapped by an unknown assailant.  You are drugged and put into a stasis unit where you hibernate for the next 12 years.  Mysteriously, you awaken to find that you are now in the year 2016.

---------------

You somehow find a way to travel to your old address.  Defying all logic, not only is your house still there but everything is *exactly* the way you left it.  All of the food in the 'fridge is still fresh, house is clean, and the car is in the garage.  Taking things a step further, you go into work the next day.  Even though it's been more than a decade, your office is still there and your name tag reads "CIO".  Everything is good, right?  Not exactly.

When you take a look at your org chart, most of the staff is comprised of people you've never met.  You also have dotted lines to external service partners that are managing some of your most sensitive core assets. What's more, the total count of your personnel which used to be 350 is now 80. (!)  Rather than having seven data centers you now have two and one of those is co-located instead of in its own facility.  You walk down to the CEO's office for your daily staff meeting but are greeted by a confused executive assistant.  He says, somewhat bewildered, "You have reported to the CFO since 2013.  Her office is down the hall in suite 1622."

At the end of the day you look at your new reality and see that while you were asleep, everything else changed around you.

---------------

The little story above is somewhat dramatic but it highlights in a simple way what has happened to a number of technology executives over the past decade.  The reality of IT has changed in ways that would NEVER happen in any other part of a company.  If that's hard to believe, just take a look around your own environment.  For the most part, accounting is still accounting, operations still works very similar, and sales people still go out and sell.  Only within IT has the entire "modus operandi" changed.  The function of technology is still very much the same but it is practiced in entirely new ways.

So the biggest question of all is, "How do you stay relevant?"  Depending upon who and what you are the answer will be different (of course you knew I'd say that).  However........there is something that all of us can do that will lead to the right path.  The answer - MOVE FORWARD.  This can take shape in a number of different ways:

  • Embrace virtualization outside of the data center
  • Work with strategic partners when and where you need them instead of hiring full-time staff
  • Hire problem solvers - Be a problem solver
  • Express yourself internally to your company and to the outside world (history is written by the writers!)
  • Use a Mac (in other words, become hardware agnostic, not a PC evangelist)
  • Spend your budget on projects that will give immediate results
When you realize that being a technologist is a journey rather than a career is when this whirlwind journey that we all share will start being fun and rewarding.

Monday, June 13, 2016

All Business Is Personal

One of the most famous lines in all the great gangsters movies is usually said before someone gets whacked (killed).  Right before the trigger is pulled, the antagonist says, "This isn't personal kid, just business..."  Directly afterwards you heard the gun go off (BLAM!) and see the blood and gore spray.

Just thinking about that type of scene I've always laughed at the hypocrisy of that statement.  When someone kills you, what could be more personal?  While carrying out a "hit" on somebody may indeed be a business transaction (for the hit man) the end result ends up being extremely personal.

In the world of business we rarely deal with issues of life and death.  No, our daily struggles are more mundane concerns about deadlines, deliverables, presentations, and the such.  Yet, how many of us fall into the trap of believing that the things we do and the way we treat and interact with people is "just business"?  If you've ever laid someone off or been laid off yourself, did you feel emotionally detached from the situation?  Odds are that whatever side you were one, the experience felt very personal.

Consider something if you will.  When you receive your paycheck, whether it comes as a paper form or simply an electronic deposit, do you believe that the "company" just paid you?  Most people believe exactly that, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that every time you get paid it is because of several factors:

  1. A specific person set and approved your particular compensation
  2. Another person made sure that your information was correctly recorded into whatever payroll system your company uses
  3. Yet another individual took the responsibility to authorize ("sign") your check
  4. Someone made sure that your money was correctly delivered to you
Not everyone gets paid in exactly the same way but the point still stands.  Your company did not just pay you - some individual or group of people did it.

Everything we do in our daily work is personal to someone.  For example, the work that you do in your role either contributes or detracts from your own sense of satisfaction or fulfillment.  Each assignment that you do for somebody else affects them in many ways from how they feel about you to how successful he or she can be in their career.  Every customer with whom you interact takes your actions personally.  If you've ever received a speeding ticket you will remember positively or negatively how the police officer treated you.  If you were disrespectful to officer that will also be remembered as will your politeness if you maintained decorum.

The ultimate point of this particular blog is to help you both understand and manage self awareness.  People who are self aware get tuned into the subtleties of how even the smallest actions reflect upon a person.  Time and again you will notice that the most successful people in all walks of life are those that understand the concept that everything is personal.  

Certain cultures are more tuned into this concept than others.  Having travel the (entire) world, I can speak from experience.  In Asia, the success of almost every business situation in which I was involved was determined by small things.  Did I have a personal connection to my counterpart across the table?  Did I know about his life, his family, his interests?  What was my connection to community where I was trying to do business?  Did I conduct myself with decorum?

I have many examples that I could give not only from Asia, but South America, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.  That's not necessary, though, because you get the point.  (All my readers are highly intelligent and intuitive!)

If you want to be successful in business always, always remember to be self aware.  It's those people who can make business personal that always achieve the most success.  Think about it and you'll know it's true.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Poor Personal Choices & the Coming Machine Era

The other day I was reading an article that claimed robots would be taking over about 95 million jobs from humans in the next 10-20 years.  There were some interesting assertions in that piece so I did some more searching and came across another article that was titled, "Will Robots Make Humans Unnecessary?" From a certain perspective, headlines like these are simply "clickbait".  This term is used to described headlines that draw the attention of people to content that would not otherwise be enticing.

While I don't believe that the world will be ruled by machines anytime soon, I think that the trend is a legitimate one.  Given what I've just said, we might ask ourselves why this shift is occurring.  As the second article says above, why have the number of workers employed in manufacturing jobs dropped 31% over the last 40 years?  The answer lies in the way that humans behave.  Let's look at a few examples of certain types of behavior that most would consider "poor".  Ask yourself if you've either committed or observed any of them.

  1. As you drive in traffic you notice an accident on the other side of the road.  You slow down to see "if anything happened", at the same time causing a ripple effect of slowdowns behind you.
  2. A person goes to bedd too late and comes to work the next day tired.  They proceed to turn in less than top-notch work.  The result is that some of the effort must be re-done or the finished work product is of less quality than it should be.
  3. A person is in an angry state of mind and allows those emotions to negatively impact an interaction with a customer.  The customer decides to move to a competitor.
  4. An airline pilot makes a mistake in routine flying procedures causing an incident with the plane.
  5. A check-out clerk at a store incorrectly prices or fails to scan an item resulting in an incorrect total.  The store loses money.
  6. A package arrives on a person's doorstep that, while properly addressed, was hand delivered to an incorrect house two lots away from the intended destination.
  7. A typo in an accounting entry causes a transaction to be off by a factor of 10.  The person who committed the erroneous transaction blames it on a "system error".
  8. A worker at a famous fast food restaurant decides not to wash his hands after leaving the bathroom.  As a result, an outbreak of e-coli causes tremendous disruption to the business.
  9. A heart patient continues to eat fatty food and smoke after surviving a triple heart by-pass surgery.

Of the nine examples above I believe that all of us can identify with at least three.  Maybe not personally, but we each would have knowledge of them occurring.  They all illustrate examples where humans routinely cause disruption, lower quality results, or poor output - all of which are the result of poor choices.  Is it no wonder then that many businesses have looked for ways to automate processes or remove the "human element" from the equation?

I do not believe that robots and machines will ever replace humans in the sense that they will "take over" our world.  What I do believe is that the inability to remove poor choices from the human experience will continue to drive companies all over the world to find ways to mitigate the resulting problems that arise.

I've recently written about transportation being one of the biggest problems and opportunities of our modern era.  If ever there was stage to illustrate the cause and effect of poor (human) choices, it is in the daily traffic found in every city around the world.  That's why we have already seen the advent of the driverless car.  With computers in charge of moving cars in heavily congested cities, traffic jams will become extinct.  It doesn't mean that people will no longer drive cars, it just means that driving will take on a whole new (streamlined) form, augmented by automated machines.

Just like the Luddites of the early 1800s, humans will adapt in the coming decades to embrace whole new ways of work and play.  Making poor choices is just a part of the human condition and can oftentimes tied to emotion.  With machines more integrated into many parts of our lives, we can become more fully who we are as species.  It may sound scary, but the next era we enter - the Era of the Machine - may be the happiest healthiest time we have ever experienced.