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Leadership

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

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

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

Does a Higher GPA Make You A Better Employee?

Someone tweeted me a question yesterday, “Is GPA [Grade Point Average] an accurate summary of how someone will be as an employee?” I checked the source of the tweet and — no surprise — it seems to be coming from a student. I don’t know the person but my guess is that he is either […] 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

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

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

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

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

Have You “Pulled Your Goalie” in IT?

I lived in Boston during the height of the Bobby Orr days, and I got caught up in the enthusiasm that Boston felt for their Bruins. I had never seen ice hockey before I moved to Boston, and I learned the game by watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup. One of the intriguing tactics […] 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

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

New Tagline — IT’s all about the Business

I've changed the tagline in my blog header. It used to be "Insight for Current and Future IT Leaders." Now it's "Insight for Current and Future Business Leaders." I took out the word "IT" and replaced it with the word "business." Here's why: For over six years I've been writing about lessons I've learned from […] 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

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 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

How a New CEO Affects the CIO A few weeks ago I ran into a CIO I hadn't seen in a few months.  The last time I had seen him we talked about his job situation.  The CEO he worked for had just been replaced, and the CIO and the new CEO were butting heads. […] 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 2016 it's still number 1, and it's been number 1 for ten out of […] Read More

Turn Left at the Last Traffic Light

It happened a while ago – before GPS devices, and before Google Maps or Mapquest. I was trying to drive to an address in a small town and I did what reasonable people did back then: I asked someone at a gas station for directions. One detail from the directions stands out in my memory: […] 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

9 Ways to Reduce Business IT Expense

Last month I got a lot of positive feedback about the timeliness of my newsletter topic, “The Right Span of Control Isn’t a Number,” so this month I’ve written another newsletter article dealing with today's problems. In our current economy there is a high likelihood that you’ve been asked to “tighten your belt” and cut […] 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

How to Fail as a CIO

Success in any job is measured by the alignment of expectations and performance. If the company expects “X” and you deliver “Y” then you fail, no matter whether or not “X” is achievable and no matter whether or not “Y” is actually better for the company. If it’s impossible to deliver “X” in the desired […] 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 Best IT Organization in the Country?

Recently a newsletter reader told me that his CEO asked the question, “Is our IT organization the best in the country?” The reader wanted to know how it’s possible to “benchmark yourself against other IT organizations so to be in a position to answer such a question.” First Answer I think there are two answers […] 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

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