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perception

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

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

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

When I interview prospective candidates, I look for four key attributes: enthusiasm, curiosity, insight, and perspective. Here’s why: Enthusiasm Motivation is probably one of the most important attributes of a good employee, and the best kind of motivation comes from enthusiasm. Enthusiastic employees are eager to work. They volunteer for assignments. They work longer hours […] 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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Deal with Complaints — 7 Steps

How do you deal with someone who complains -- whether it's a customer of your company, a customer of your department, or even an employee or family member? How do you turn the complainer into a supporter? Here are some steps to take: 1. Listen If you're going to make the complaint go away, then […] 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

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 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

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

I talked about Due Diligence in a previous article, and gave you 13 ways to spot lies and deception.  Here's an additional list that's specific to Information Technology, although you can probably see parallels in other types of due diligence: 12 More Ways to Spot IT Lies and Omissions The current solution doesn't scale up […] Read More

We all do due diligence.  Some of us do it in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).  Some of us do it when we're getting ready to make a major purchase like a house or a car, or when we're getting ready to sign a contract for major home repair.  Due diligence is the research you do […] 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

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

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

We all have a tendency to define ourselves by the roles we play. The first part of almost every new conversation between strangers is asking the question, "What do you do?" We then use the answer to that question to apply a stereotype to the person. If the person answers, "I'm a doctor," then we […] 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

No Programmer Left Behind?

1. Tests I’ve always been pretty good at taking tests; I guess you could say I have a gift for “quizmanship.” But on a 1 - 10 scale, I would probably rate myself a 6 or 7 on the geek-o-meter. I’m not up there with some of the kids I once went to school with, […] Read More

The Right Span of Control Isn’t a Number

In my June, 2007 newsletter article I talked about how to organize IT, but I didn’t address one of the questions that keeps coming up during a bad economic climate: how do we deal with executives who want to cut the number of IT managers by increasing the span of control for each manager? Span of […] 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secrets of Convincing a CIO to Buy Your Products & Services What surprising hot buttons do CIO's have? What can I do to guarantee a meeting with a CIO? How do I ensure an initial sale to a CIO? How do I ensure add-on sales? You probably already know how difficult it is to […] 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

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