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Leadership

As a child, I read the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is one of the earliest known accounts of a trick that technology salespeople use all of the time. Let me first recap the story, and then I’ll explain the trick and how to deal with it. The Plot […] Read More

Emergencies Aren’t Strategy

In a previous article I talked about how there are two reasons for strategy: focus and communication. It seems like companies have a lot of trouble with focus. Particularly in large companies, there’s a tendency to “focus” on everything at once: accomplishing all of your objectives, expanding in all of your markets, increasing revenues in […] Read More

Is Your Strategy a Rifle or a Shotgun?

A strategy can be viewed as a way of achieving an objective. A coach’s strategy for the football game might be to attack relentlessly on the ground. A general’s strategy for the battle might be to feint an attack to the center while flanking from the right. A CEO’s strategy for the business might be […] Read More

Taking Shadow IT Out of the Shadows, Part 2

In my previous post I described Shadow IT and the problems it causes. In this post I’ll describe some approaches that the formal IT organization can take to deal with Shadow IT, and I’ll give you some recommendations. 5 Approaches to Dealing with Shadow IT Most formal IT organizations take one of five different approaches […] Read More

Taking Shadow IT Out of the Shadows, Part 1

Shadow IT is one of the names for the Information Technology work and expense that’s done outside of the control of the formal IT organization and outside the formal IT budget. It’s more prevalent in some companies than in others, and it often changes over time within a company. I’ve found that the amount of […] Read More

4 Advantages of a Portable Expert

In my previous post I defined the term “Portable Expert” and I described the two secrets that make portable expertise possible. In this post I’ll give you some examples of portable expertise from my own experience, I’ll list four advantages of hiring a portable expert, and I’ll give you some tips on how to create […] Read More

It’s All About Trust

Trust is an important part of every relationship, but in some cases it’s more important than others. It’s easy to say you trust someone when you can watch their every move to see if they’re doing what they said they would do. It’s harder to trust someone when they’re far away for extended periods of […] Read More

If you’ve traveled much, then you’ve probably noticed that the more expensive, “better” hotels charge for WiFi while the same service is often included in the room rate at less expensive hotels.  This phenomenon probably seems odd to you — isn’t this the opposite of what you should expect? In this article I’ll provide an […] Read More

Never Stop Questioning

There’s a certain age that kids go through when they seem to have an endless supply of questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do cows make a moo sound?” “Why don’t planes fall out of the sky?” “Why are traffic lights red, yellow and green and not purple, orange and pink?” And then, as […] Read More

A Crisis is the End of an Illusion

Every morning I post a new quotation on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  The quotation on February 9th, 2012 was from Jerry Weinberg, one of my mentors in the IT industry.  The quotation was: "It may look like a crisis, but it's only the end of an illusion." Many years ago, I copied this quotation to […] Read More

The Naive CIO

The naive CIO believes all the articles telling you that it’s your duty as a CIO to prevent devices like iPhones, Android devices and tablets of all types from coming into your workplace. The naive CIO may actually believe that there is a workplace these days, even though more and more business is being conducted […] Read More

My friend Derek Cheshire made an interesting observation yesterday: Tell me if I'm being stupid but after reading about the Greek austerity measures I do wonder why we have to try and make hundreds of public sector employees redundant. Why not just trim pay by say 10%? At least there would be more people with […] Read More

Listening is one of the most important traits of a good manager. Good managers spend most of their time listening: listening to their employees describe the problems they’ve encountered, listening to what their bosses tell them to do, listening to what customers have to say about products and services. Beginning managers listen It’s easy to […] Read More

Future IT = Cloud + Mobile + Enterprise App Store

There’s been a lot of talk about cloud computing, and mobility has been in the news for years.  But apps and an enterprise app store are going to bring it all together to remake the face of IT. Cloud Computing Cloud computing is a method for delivering computing resource.  Its principal attributes are outsourced management, […] Read More

I've talked about the changing nature of IT in a previous article, but it's amazing to me how fast some of the changes are taking place. Ten or twenty years ago the key skills for someone in IT were systems analysis and programming -- mostly technical skills. But more recently the need for those skills […] Read More

Business literature is full of distinctions that some very smart people make between a manager and a leader: "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." - Peter Drucker "...Leaders are concerned with what things mean to people. Managers are concerned about how things get done." - Abraham Zaleznik "Leaders are the […] Read More

Know what the biggest difference is between an adequate project manager and a great project manager? The great project manager always learns from every project and applies that learning to the next project. Here's a simple technique to help you learn from every project too.  After each project completion, before you send the project team […] Read More

In my last article I talked about why IT magic is never good. Well, I guess I should have known better than to use the word "never." In his "Thoughts by Techxplorer" blog, one of my readers came up with a pretty good exception: a situation where the thought of IT magic -- but not […] Read More

Why IT Magic is Never Good

I recently spoke at a conference attended by senior business and IT people from accounting firms. I described my usual view on IT Magic: that when Information Technology gets too complex, it's perceived as magic; then there are lots of problems for IT because business people develop unrealistic expectations. In the Q&A with attendees, one […] Read More

I've talked a lot about human nature in my articles. I believe that human nature is the biggest challenge to most successful management, and especially the biggest challenge for IT managers. Information technology is all very logical. Software does exactly what you tell it to do. Computers -- for the most part -- behave the […] Read More

IT Governance is Like Pushing a Rope

IT governance has been getting a lot of attention lately in the press. Frankly, it bothers me, since I think that a focus on IT governance is misguided. Four years ago I wrote an article about the difference between management and leadership. In the article I said that: "... management is like pushing a rope; […] Read More

The question about the pros and cons of using a business/IT liaison person came up at a meeting I attended last week. I've got to admit some bias on this issue. Long ago I tried using a business/IT liaison person for one of my software development groups, and I wasn't happy with the result. The […] Read More

A lot of people tend to confuse these two words. We work hard, focus on our goals, and figure that happiness will come once we achieve success. Don't fall for this deception. Happiness Happiness is a feeling. It can be triggered by external factors -- a friend, a lover, a place, an event, a food […] Read More

There are Only Two Reasons for Strategy

A lot of people think that the creation of business strategy is a mysterious process -- something that's secretly practiced behind closed doors in the boardroom. There's a lot of mysticism around strategy setting, and so we avoid it for fear that we'll do it wrong. But there's no magic in strategy -- just as […] Read More

6 Things I’d Like to Tell Your Boss about IT

I wrote a book on this subject but it focused on the management and leadership aspects of IT -- not the technical stuff. Now I'm looking at doing a two-day class on IT for business executives. I'll include the stuff from my book, but I'm trying to identify the technical topics that I should also […] Read More

The 7 Biggest Challenges of a Manager

I've previously written about why you might want to be a manager and the 13 skills needed by a manager. This article explains the seven biggest challenges faced by a manager. 1. Achieving a Stretch Goal The organization you're managing is responsible for something -- whether it's performing a business process, supporting some other organization, […] Read More

Last week I met with a client to discuss a presentation I'm going to do for his company. The client company has a good process in place for business strategy, and they have the beginnings of an IT strategy. But they're having difficulty connecting the business strategy and the IT strategy, and they want me […] Read More

10 Ways to Find the Truth

In my previous post I talked about the problem of determining the truth in current events (and in other areas) when we're faced with conflicting views from thousands of media and Internet sources. In this post I'll offer some advice for dealing with the problem: 1. Become more conscious of the assumptions that you've been […] Read More

What Ever Happened to the “Truth”?

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when there were just three TV channels, two local daily newspapers, a few local radio stations, and no cable or satellite TV. There were no personal computers -- let alone the Internet -- and so our news sources were pretty limited. We each picked our standard of […] Read More

IT Marriage Counseling

I've been comparing the IT/Business relationship to a marriage for a while now. In Chapter 12 of my book, I said: Secret 28: The Information Technology organization is your partner in creating and managing systems and data, with shared responsibilities. That partnership can be like a marriage, with both marriage partners working together to make […] Read More

Many years ago I did some work at a newly built manufacturing plant in Phoenix. The new plant was having trouble with its air conditioning system  -- the administrative offices were too cold and the manufacturing shop floor was too hot. While I was there it was discovered that a mistake had been made during […] Read More

You're trying to get a new project approved, and you're having trouble. Or you're trying to get an employee to do things your way, and the employee keeps fighting you. Both these situations are disagreements, and the process to deal with them is similar. Why Do We Disagree? Let's start with individual disagreements. When two […] Read More

I Believe ... The best businesses are honest with their customers and their employees. The best companies have a win-win relationship with their customers and with their employees. Management is about focusing the work of the employees by assigning tasks which best align the company's interests with the employees' interests. Executive management is about focusing […] Read More

I've promoted scores of people into first-time manager positions. Some did well and some didn't. Here are a few of their stories, with names changed and a few relevant facts altered to protect the individuals involved. Fred This was early in my career, and I didn't have any experience in promoting people into management. But […] Read More

In a recent article I wrote about why you might want to be a manager. If that's what you want, here's my list of the 13 skills you'll need: 1. Communication There's a lot of communication when you're a manager. You have to communicate with each of your employees. You have to communicate "sideways" with […] Read More

How to Justify Security Investment

In March of 2009 I was the speaker at a SIM Meeting in Dallas. In the Q&A at the end, a young security manager asked me a question. He said that he has succeeded in making his company's infrastructure good enough that they have no problems with security breaches, data leaks, viruses, or any of […] Read More

The Quest for a Quest

I’m fond of fiction; I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies. I think that a large part of the appeal of fiction comes from the single-minded focus of the principal characters in the plot. When the hero of the book or movie is trying to track down a secret or […] Read More

I was having dinner with a CIO who had retired after a long and distinguished career. The conversation had been mostly small talk, but suddenly a thought occurred to him, and he sat up straight in his chair. “Why is it,” he asked vehemently, “that CIOs have to work so much harder than every other […] Read More

IT Alignment is Simple, Part 1

Results of the latest SIM CIO Survey were announced at SIMposium 2008. Once again, “IT and Business Alignment” was number 1 on the list of top IT management concerns (it’s been number 1 for a lot of years). [Note: as of 2014 it's still number 1, and it's been number 1 for eight out of […] Read More

3 Things Your CEO Wants to Know

A lot of people who move up through an IT organization are surprised to find that the higher in the IT organization they get, the less the job is about technology. At the very top of the IT organization in the CIO role, the focus isn’t on IT at all – it’s on doing the […] Read More

Information Technology is like the Stock Market

Success in IT is a lot like success in the stock market. People who don’t understand the stock market sometimes think that there’s a “right” price for a stock based on some elaborate and mystical formula. Similarly, people who don’t understand IT sometimes think there’s an objective way to measure an IT organization that will […] Read More

Last month I did some work for a company that has manufacturing plants in a number of rural locations. The IT managers who work in those locations complained about how difficult it is to hire IT people, partly because of the locations and partly because of the image of manufacturing being a dirty industry. Here […] Read More

Thrasher’s Hierarchy of Business IT Needs

I recently attended an IT panel discussion where one of the attendees asked the panel what IT initiatives are strategic to the business. There was a brief debate about what “strategic” means, and I came to the conclusion that it's impossible to tell whether or not a specific IT initiative is strategic to a particular […] Read More

How Do You Talk to a CIO?

Last week I was interviewed by a writer from a popular business magazine. He wanted my views on the question, “How do you talk to a CTO or CIO?” It’s an interesting question, and what makes it most interesting to me is that I’ve never heard anyone ask the question about any other senior executive […] Read More

In 2004 I wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called “Harwell’s Unfortunate Laws of Human Organizational Behavior.” I put it on my web site, but I just sent the link to a few close friends. Frankly, I thought the content of the essay was too different from my normal, more up-beat type of article. But I was […] Read More

How to Organize IT

I’m frequently asked the question, “how should IT be organized?” Let me start by saying there is no right answer, at least no answer that’s right for all situations. There are a lot of different aspects of the IT organization issue, and I address some of them in this article. Where should IT report? Where IT reports […] Read More

The Politics of Information Technology

I’m writing this on November 7, 2006. That’s election day in the United States. During the last few months we’ve been besieged with television and radio advertising for candidates, and even recorded messages sent to our telephones. Now it’s time for all of the campaigning to end as we go to the polls to vote. […] Read More

Achievement is Not the Absence of Failure

There are some jobs where achievement is the absence – or maybe the avoidance – of failure. Driving a bus is one of those jobs; if you make it through the day without an accident, without hurting or annoying anyone, and without falling behind your schedule, then you’re successful. There are other jobs where carrying […] Read More

Heroes Don’t Scale

“Hero” is one of those positive words that gives us mental images of rescuing children from burning buildings or saving troops from certain death. We admire, praise and imitate heroes; they set the standard for bravery and going "beyond the call of duty." But despite the personal admiration associated with heroism, there’s a dark side […] Read More

When I was a child I learned a funny nonsense rhyme: I eat my peas with honey. I’ve done so all my life. It makes the peas taste funny But it keeps them on the knife. The logic of the rhyme argues that: I eat peas with a knife. But when I try to eat […] Read More

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