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Projects

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 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

Why Both Government and IT Need Transparency

A lot of people in the United States are against what they call “big government.” Yet most of those people are in favor of government services that they consider essential. In many cases, the concern about big government is not actually a concern about the size of government — it’s more a concern about a […] 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

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

There’s a naive belief among many new managers that employee personal problems should be irrelevant to job performance and therefore something that managers can ignore. We like to believe that when employees walk through the office door, all of their personal problems are left behind. To managers with this belief, employees are like robots: treat […] 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot of companies routinely use ROI (Return on Investment) to compare multiple projects competing for limited investment resource. But what do these same companies use during a bad economy when they’re trying to figure out where to make cuts? How do you compare multiple opportunities for cost cutting? Recently I moderated a group discussion […] 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

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

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

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

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 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

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

5 Reasons Why IT People Love Lists

Ok, admit it. You’re reading this because you want to know the 5 reasons. That means that you’re probably like most IT people and you love lists yourself. Of course it’s not just IT people who love lists; it’s almost anyone who falls into the Myers-Briggs category called “Judging” which describes people who need structure […] 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

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

The Information Technology Merry-Go-Round

The world is full of cycles. There are stock market highs and lows, periods of good weather and bad weather, even apparent cycles of good luck and bad luck. Many of the people-related cycles are caused by basic human nature. The bad part of a cycle starts when we hear bad things about a particular […] 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

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

Don’t Get Stuck in a Learning Stage

I’ve heard that we go through a progression of stages as we learn a new topic. Before starting to learn a topic, we’re so oblivious to the subject matter that we’re not even aware of what it’s about. We’re in Stage 1: we don’t know what we don’t know. Gradually, we become aware of our […] Read More

If you haven’t been involved in an acquisition, then wait a few months; it eventually happens to all of us. In preparation for that event, it’s useful to get an understanding of why companies do acquisitions, so that you can anticipate the effect that an acquisition will have on you. I’ve been lucky enough to […] Read More

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