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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 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

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

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

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

8 Techniques for Dealing with Grief

In a previous article I talked about the loss of my wife and some of the things I’m going through. Since that time I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with my loss. In this article I’ll share some of the techniques I’ve been using. I think they’re applicable in dealing with any loss, whether […] Read More

Grief and Disentangling

My wife Sharon passed away July 31st, and I would like to describe some of the thought process I’ve been going through for the last month. My wife’s death wasn’t sudden. She was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, and she’s been through a progressive loss of muscle control over various parts of her body. […] 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

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

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

A Model of Job Performance

Back in 1979 I put together a model of job performance to help with some process improvements we were doing at Digital Equipment Corporation.  Here’s the model: I ran across the model when was going through some old papers, and I thought you’d like to see it.  Here’s the explanation of the model that accompanied […] Read More

A Job A job is an exchange of work for money: for every hour you work, you get an hour of pay. Although you might derive some satisfaction from doing the job, and you might enjoy the people you work with, the reason you do the job is for the money.  If you win the […] Read More

How to Deal with Complainers — 2 Approaches

People who complain fall into two categories: those who complain because they want help in resolving a problem, and those who complain because they want sympathy. Often the complainers themselves don’t understand why they’re complaining, so it’s up to you to figure it out for yourself. The Complainer as Problem Solver The first category of […] 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

I’ll let you in on a secret: Most companies have used the bad economy as an excuse for laying off people who the company wanted to get rid of anyway. Now I’m not saying that these companies haven’t had financial issues — most companies have experienced a loss of revenue as a result of a […] 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

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

We’re All Biased — Learn from It

Last week I posted an article about whether younger “digital natives” or older “digital immigrants” are better at IT. In responses I saw on Reddit or that I received directly, I noticed a pattern: 1. A lot of people were disappointed (to put it mildly) that I didn’t draw a conclusion in favor of one […] Read More

I was asked this question at a recent speaking engagement in Utah, and I’ve thought about it a bit more since then. “Digital natives” are people who grew up using digital technology; they used computers as children and so they never lived in a non-computer world. “Digital immigrants” grew up in a world that didn’t […] 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 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

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

One of my newsletter readers sent me an interesting question: “I was wondering if you have insights on the attitude of managers on the business side towards the re-alignment of IT. I can imagine that managers at the business side tend to resist giving up (overly) customized IT, since the short-term performance of their individual […] Read More

A few weeks ago BusinessWeek had an interesting article on firing people, pointing out the legal risks associated with terminating employees. Here are the things you need to know about firing that BusinessWeek didn’t mention. 5 Kinds of Firings Let’s start at the beginning. In my experience, there are five kinds of firings: Firing someone […] Read More

5 Approaches to Software Strategy

I recently visited a potential client company who wants help in setting strategy for its licensed software products. In the last few years I’ve mostly helped companies with IT strategy, so I had to think back to my product development days and consider the differences between IT strategy and software product strategy. And in doing […] 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

10 Rules for IT Job Success

I got a call last month from a newsletter reader in India who wanted help in making a career decision. He was a bit vague about the details, but it seems that he impetuously quit his previous job over a difference of opinion with his manager. Now he wasn’t sure whether to try to patch […] 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

The Blind Men and Information Technology

A recent article in ComputerWorld by Curt Monash reminded me of the poem about the Blind Men and the Elephant. The Computerworld article talked about different points of view from leading technology vendors. According to the article, Oracle and IBM view IT as data-centric, Microsoft views IT as people-centric, and SAP views IT as business-process-centric. […] Read More

Creating Wildly Successful Projects

I saw a shooting star the other day, a meteor streaking across the sky as it burned up in the atmosphere. A lot of IT projects are like that meteor: they briefly get a lot of attention, they brighten the lives of the people who observe them, but then they fade into oblivion when they’re […] Read More

More than half of the subscribers who receive this newsletter won’t even open the email. I can understand why: you’ve only got a limited amount of time, and you have to be selective about how you use it. But let’s be honest; are you really being selective? Or are you just randomly reading some things […] Read More

IT Lessons from a Waitress

I went out to dinner last night to a place I’ve gone hundreds of times, and I ordered a salad that I’ve ordered many times before. The salad wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past: the lettuce was old, and the dressing was watery. When the waitress asked her usual question, “How is […] 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

User Training is Like a Joke

Shifts in frame of reference are the root of most humor. We all tell jokes, but we seldom recognize that most jokes are funny because they lead our thinking in one direction and then abruptly cause us to shift our thinking to a different direction. Jokes essentially accomplish mental sleight-of-hand by using the most basic […] Read More

If You’re Stuck, Get a Jiggler

In Stephen Covey’s latest book, The Eighth Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness, he includes the following Q&A: Q: “In your experience, what is the best question to ask people when you hire them?” A: “In my experience, the best question is to say ‘Starting with your earliest memory, what did you really like doing and […] Read More

Logic isn’t always the Logical Choice

When we come into this world as babies, we believe that the earth revolves around us, and from the way that most parents treat their newborns, I guess that’s true to some extent. As we grow out of babyhood, we gradually become aware of other people, and our concept of existence evolves into a view […] Read More

Julia Roberts, Training Wheels, and Bureaucracy

What do the three things in the title of this article have in common? Julia Roberts In the movie Mona Lisa Smile, there’s a scene in which a Wellesley instructor played by Julia Roberts shows the class a painting, and asks them whether or not it’s any good. Up until this point all of the […] Read More

IT is Moving toward Property Management

Last month I had the unique opportunity to help a large university plan its future curricula for its undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer information systems. The university recognizes that Information Technology is changing, and wants to make sure that its students are being prepared for the real world. To this end the university has […] Read More

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