Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential

Note: I originally wrote this post weeks ago. Doing housecleaning this morning turned it up. I think it says something important so I punched it up a little and pulled the trigger. I hope you agree.

How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential A really bad title for a decent article in the Wall Street Journal. If you know a CEO - send them this link.

"CEOs who use obsolete metrics such as head count or benchmarking the competition to decide on the role and evaluate the performance of IT in their companies run the risk of being blindsided by competitors who take full advantage of IT innovations. Furthermore, IT is key to a company's ability to satisfy regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on corporate governance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and legislation in various states on the privacy of customer information."
Preaching to the choir. I'm fortunate in my case to work for a company where our CIO has both a head for business and an understanding and interest in tech. Our CEO also seems to get the importance of that balance, and the amazing benefit of leveraging good technology. In some cases this mix only effects the employees and the shareholders. In others it can have much greater impact. Government and health care come quickly to mind.

Was a time when good IT basically meant the bills were paid on time. As time has marched on poor IT management has the potential to run entire governments or their large projects into the ground. Imagine a non-working public transit project in NYC or a miscount on an election that would result in a bond issue to fund a public water project in LA.

It frightens me to also say it, but there are actually hospitals where this isn't understood. Imagine a hospital with a non-working telephone system. Or the ability to track which patients got which medication or even if they have received their meals. Management decisions that were once simple cost cutting moves, to cut training, service contracts, or staff and training in the IT department have these type of effects in today's technology environment. In fact I worked in such an environment for a while. Recent events remind me how fast our lives and the organizations we work for can change. One person, can make all the difference.

I, like most, have seen single management changes destroy a once great organization - then another change bring it back like the much lauded phoenix from the fire. But what most don't see is that one person - even in a large group can change the history of an organization and even effect lives and communities. I've seen one poison front line employee bring sourness and anger into a big business and I've seen the departure of one key person in IT take the forward momentum of nearly all that organizations projects when he left. Don't underestimate your importance where you work. Especially if you are in a support role like IT or Engeneering or Finance. And please, if you find yourself with management or administrative responsibilities - listen to your staff and move with care.

Counting my blessings...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Blame Handles

Blame Handles. Thats what I call it when people - in my case mostly users of the systems my group administers - grab onto something and blame it for (all) their problems. Oddly it's almost never the actual cause of their woes and most usually, it's something that they have no idea about. Many times it's a buzzword - if even only local. Allot of the time it's a new system or an update to an old one that gets to be the scapegoat.

In my world the most popular blame handles are "the wireless network" and "VPNs". Sometimes it's just "the network" or even in some really scary cases, "the computers". If you ask the persons using these terms what they mean they usually throw up their hands and shake their heads. If you ask why they think that x blame handle is the problem they sometimes even get angry. Like it should be obvious to you that they are correct.

I find myself getting frustrated when my users do this. I'm the guy that usually knows what the real cause is (when it's a technology problem) and can even usually find a way to get it fixed. When the next unrelated problem shows up and the users again wield the same blame handle I pull my hair. "That has never been your problem! Why do you persist in blaming it!" I hear myself say. Only to get the head shake and angry reactions...

Lately I've come to a couple of conclusions. The first is that I'm sure I do it too. I think it's a human trait. I'm not sure what I do it with though. My guess is that if it were something that I understood I wouldn't do it. So I'm watching for the time that someone asks me why I'm blaming whatever it is. Instead of throwing up my hands and shaking my head - I'm going to ask why they are sure it isn't and see if I can learn something. The second conclusion - well it kind of smarts to admit. I'm sure in my professional position, that I myself (or at least my name) is actually or could easily be a blame handle for someone.

My resolution for the week. Don't be a blame handle - or at least have a pocket full of others to offer up in my stead.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gadget Love

Just returned from a week long trip with only two gadgets. My Treo 650 and my Nokia n810 Internet Tablet. First things first. The Treo. I have a love/hate relationship with the Treo. It reminds me of at least one relationship I've had with the fairer sex. Beautiful package crying out to be touched - and lots of toys I want to play with if only the damn thing would let me.
Don't get me wrong, the phone and PDA are fine. Nearly perfect in their intent - with just a few misses in execution. However this is my third 650. I've now paid as much in insurance deductibles as I would have paid for a new phone. Two weeks after I got the latest one it stopped working 150 miles from home in the middle of a medical emergency last summer - I was ready to throw it against the wall. I kept in only for the data it contained. Fully intending to end my infatuation at first opportunity.

A lucky drop on the pavement seemed to revive the vile device however. Never mind that all my calls since sound like everyone in my address book is a cricket. A few weeks later I was happily sending text messages to my Son on the other side of the country as I enjoyed a music festival and kept tabs on the office from 200 miles away. Back in love. 30 days after that I had a fit in front of my kids and literally punched it in the face as it refused to get online for much needed directions in an unfamiliar town. (Until I pulled the battery, cursed and threatened it's existence anyway. Arrh!)

I'm now regularly surfing Verizon's website like a lonely member looking for a new relationship, but I've been burned and am heart broken. It will take allot more than a pretty face and the promise of EVDO to win my affection this time.

The Treo did not disappoint me on this last trip (crickets aside). Perhaps she suspects my heart and is looking for a way to get that last stab at my tender emotions. That, and I did not ask her to be anything other than a phone/txt device. In fact I have not asked more than that from her since that day last summer.

Enter the other woman... The Nokia 810 Internet tablet.

Drop dead sexy. 10 times as smart. Open source. Oh my! She even speaks my language. WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Vo/IP. She gets it all! Laptop schmaptop. Who needs that huge, heavy old thing. A day or two of DVD ripping and I even had the latest movies for the flight! Wow! Every time I was lost and wandering all I had to do was ask. She would take me by the hand and lead - she even has cute little quips to say as you arrive at your destination.

Yes my tablet has become the apple of my eye (gadget wise). I take her everywhere. I've stopped using the Treo for my schedule - I can see my GroupWise calendar from anywhere there is WiFi. Honestly - in the US that's just about anywhere. Most airports and almost all hotels these days have free access. If you can't find an open network where you are - walk 50 feet. I'm even starting to wonder about the need for a cell phone at all. With the tablet's deft handling of not only SIP but Gizmo5 and Skype and any (or all) IM service - what' a cell phone for again?

I'll probably soon replace the Treo with a more average, non-smart, phone. Soon after that though... Watch out cellular providers - you might not see it yet but you are in as much danger of becoming irrelevant as the regional bells have recently proven to be. The same advice might just apply to the makers of laptops and most certainly to Microsoft. I do carry a foldable bluetooth keyboard for the tablet for serious writing. Even with that and a charger the the 810 weighs POUNDS less than my laptop alone and does not require a separate bag.

In case you missed it - a year ago I carried a laptop (power adapter, mouse, spare battery, headset). A GPS (charger, mount, car power adapter), my Treo (charger, headset, spare battery), and a handful of DVD's for the plane (I could have ripped them I know). All this in a bag the size of a small suitcase.

This year on the same trip - I had my Treo, charger, battery. My tablet, charger, car power, car mount, the bluetooth keyboard and headset are shared between the Treo and Nokia. In a bag that WAS my suitcase. Plus, I could have left the Treo et al, at home.

Now Nokia has a tablet that sports both WiFi and Wimax! If only they had an EVDO version...

Links worth your time:

The Nseries Tablet
My SIP provider:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

& Teller

From Crackle: & Teller

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cool tip

Tried this - Nice tip! Windoze only though. I love - probably should add them to my surf section...

Label a flash drive with your name and number.

P.S. you don't need to use the icon and you can make the label anything you want.