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How to Sell to a CIO

In 2006 I wrote an article explaining a recommended sales approach for selling to a CIO. The article has been available as a downloadable PDF file since that time, but I thought it might be a good idea to have the text of that article available directly on my blog as well. And after my […] Read More

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

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

2 Secrets of a Portable Expert

The traditional view of expertise is that you become an expert by spending many years working in a broad area.  In gardening, for example, you gain expertise by working with different plants, experimenting with different nutrients and soils, and by making mistakes and then learning from your mistakes.  Under this traditional view you are then […] Read More

12 Problems in IT Caused by the E-Myth

In 1986 a book called “The E-Myth” attracted a lot of attention. The “E” in “E-Myth” refers to entrepreneur, and according to the myth in Michael Gerber's book, if you’re good at a particular skill then you’ll do well starting a business which requires that skill. So, for example, if you’re a good cook then you’ll […] 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

Why I Never Hire the Best Person for the Job

I never hire the best person for the job, but I always try to hire the best person for my company’s future. Here’s my reasoning: A job is a task-oriented view of the business. Jobs are constantly changing because business needs are constantly changing. The best person for a job is the person who can […] Read More

No Surprises, No Rushing

People who have worked with me know that two of my biggest project principles are “No Surprises” and “No Rushing.” No Surprises Surprises are a sure sign of inadequate planning. When you do a project you have to anticipate what might go wrong as well as what might go right. Some of the things that […] 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

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

One of the biggest surprises to new managers is the intense pressure to keep people working productively. This is especially true in a project environment like IT where employees aren't doing the same thing day after day. Managing an organization is like being in a taxi with the meter running and only a few dollars […] 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 Cloud Computing is Good for Your Financials

Here's the way most people justify automation of a manual process: they replace a high variable labor cost with a relatively fixed system cost.  I'll illustrate using graphs, then show how cloud computing fits into the picture. Before: A Manual Labor-Intensive Process Before any automation, the financials for a manual process look like this: With […] 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

Want to deceive people?  Here's how the professionals do it: 1. Do a survey and use a biased sample population People focus on the survey result and seldom pay attention to information about your sample population.  So feel free to bias your result by surveying people you know will answer the way you want. Want […] Read More

What Penguins Know about ERP Success

Have you ever watched a nature documentary showing penguins entering the Antarctic ocean? They gather at the edge of the water, hesitating until more penguins arrive. They look at each other as if saying, "Do you want to go first?" or "Are we ready yet?" Then finally the hesitation will end and a large number […] Read More

Getting Ready to Move using Push and Pull

My wife and I have decided to move. We originally picked our home location because it was equidistant between my work and my wife's work. But I work from home now and my wife is retiring, so there's no longer a good reason to stay here. Instead, we're going to be looking for a house […] Read More

Many years ago my sister Mary taught me a valuable lesson. At the time she and her husband lived in a very small apartment. But each time I visited her I was amazed by how neat everything was. There were no overflowing bookshelves, no overstuffed closets and pantries, and none of the usual clutter of […] Read More

What is Cloud Computing? And Why Should You Care?

Note: This article is intended for a business audience.  For a technical explanation of cloud computing, see the sidebar below the business article. To the non-technical among us, “cloud computing” may sound like something vague and amorphous. After all, it’s a cloud, right? So that means it’s something that’s insubstantial, floating in the sky. If […] Read More

Irreconcilable Differences and Runaway Projects

A runaway project is like a married couple on the brink of divorce.  There are two opposing points of view, both sides are usually angry, each side blames the other, legal action is imminent, and a lot of time and money is being wasted. So why do projects go into a runaway mode? It's usually […] Read More

The word "scalable" has been used in IT for over forty years. IBM used the word when they first talked about their 360 series of mainframe computers in the 1960's. Since that time scalability has been a consideration in every aspect of computing: mainframes, minis, personal computers, servers, networks, proprietary systems, open systems, even smartphones. […] 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 Buy an IT Product

Suppose your IT organization is in the market for a new IT product (or service, but I’ll use the word “product” here to simplify the discussion). It could be a computer, network device or other hardware item, or it could be a software package or SaaS (software as a service). Regardless of what you’re looking […] Read More

How Does Outsourcing Affect Span of Control?

Two months ago I did an article on span of control, pointing out some of the variables that make an IT manager’s span of control so unlikely to conform to any consultant-recommended norm. I received a number of positive emails about the article, but one email in particular asked about a different kind of span […] Read More

How to Stop a Runaway Project

What do you think when you hear the phrase “runaway project”? When I hear the phrase, it reminds me of movies I’ve watched where there’s a runaway car hurtling down a steep mountain road with no brakes, barely hanging on around each curve. Or maybe you think of a runaway train, flying down the track […] Read More

To Succeed in Corporate IT, Play Hard to Get

According to popular fiction, “playing hard to get” is a strategy sometimes used by women to snare a man. It makes the assumption that men want something more when they can’t have it, so if a woman acts like she’s not interested in a man, it makes the man more interested in her. I have […] Read More

If you only consider one type of risk, then you're headed toward project failure. Most software projects are unsuccessful. According to studies by the Standish Group, in 2006 only 35% of IT projects were completed on time and within budget, and 19% of software projects were abandoned altogether. Those statistics are bad enough, but in […] 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

IT Lessons from a Manufacturing Shop Floor

When there’s too much work to do, most people try to multitask and get it all done simultaneously. But the reality is that multitasking often hurts your productivity, and it drastically increases your stress level. Let me tell you about a parallel situation in manufacturing that illustrates my point. I once worked with a manufacturing […] 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

You Don’t Have to Measure It to Lead It

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people telling me, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I blame this aphorism for a lot of the wasted measurement effort spent by today’s organizations. The problem with this statement is the use of the word “manage.” People see the word and assume […] Read More

A few weeks ago there was an article in an Atlanta newspaper about George Kelling, the author of the book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities. Dr. Kelling has been called “the man who helped Rudy Giuliani turn around New York City” by refocusing some of the city’s priorities. As […] Read More

Use Their Terminology — Not Yours

A few months ago I was a speaker in front of a group of CIOs, discussing some of the issues facing IT organizations. One of the CIOs asked me what he could do to better communicate his problems to his business users, who seemed to have trouble understanding the difficulties associated with making changes to […] Read More

In my previous newsletter I explained why ROI isn't working in most businesses. Based on comments I received from readers, I want to quickly point out that I don't believe that the "game players" I mentioned are bad people, in spite of my use of the word "crime" in the article. I believe that everyone […] Read More

Why ROI Isn’t Working

ROI (Return on Investment) is the most common and popular method for project ranking, both in IT and elsewhere. But ROI isn’t working in most companies, and as a result, businesses are making bad project decisions. In this article I'll explain why ROI isn't working. Then in next month's newsletter I'll tell you how you […] Read More

We live in a non-linear world but it’s funny how we keep forgetting that fact. Eating twice as much for dinner won’t make up for missing lunch. A runner who can do a 4 minute mile can’t do 10 miles in 40 minutes. If it takes two painters one day to paint a room, then […] Read More

I’ve got a speaking engagement in a month or so where I’m going to talk about "How to Reduce Risk in IT Projects." In thinking about what I want to say in that presentation, it occurred to me that "risk" is an interesting word. We define the word as the uncertainty of bad things happening, […] Read More

When to Outsource and When to Offshore

The subject of outsourcing is in the news a lot lately, particularly when the outsourcing is done to a location outside your country. Based on my experience, a company should consider outsourcing when one of the following criteria is met: The vendor can do the job better than your company, at a reasonable cost. The […] Read More

IT is a lot like Gift Giving

It’s that time of the year when many of us are thinking about finding appropriate holiday gifts for loved ones. The other day it struck me that there are similarities between the gift giving process and the profession of Information Technology (IT). Here are my thoughts about the philosophy of gift-giving as it relates to […] Read More

Do you want? A more satisfied boss ... Less stress ... More successful projects ... Infrastructure savings ... Enhanced leadership ... Low risk solutions ... This two-page article gives you some proven approaches for reaching these goals, along with some comments about how you can achieve them. It's a check list for the kinds of […] Read More

Get Off the Train, and Join the Fleet

I remember the first time I was in a management role, more than 25 years ago at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). I was a bit anxious because I had been put in charge of people who had been my peers. Then I surprised my new direct reports by asking them questions no one in management […] Read More

Like many of you, I travel a lot. Some of the travel requires me to wear business suits, and I’ve had to learn how to pack a suit coat so that it’s wearable when I unpack it. Years ago I learned the secret, but it recently occurred to me that the secret of packing a […] Read More

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