Seth Godin’s post on being Thirsty is a good post to think about and consider for yourself. I don’t know which comes first, the curiosity or the success. However, I think that to sustain success, you better be curious and ask lots of questions and think about things in new ways. You need to challenge yourself by reading things from different view points and you need to surround yourself with interesting people who will challenge your thinking. You need to be constantly learning.
I used to live in Singapore and I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel in Asia and Europe numerous times. I believe I have very good friends in Singapore and Thailand and other countries around the world. Each time I travel and during my time living overseas, I feel like I’m learning new things and being stretched in new directions.
I once had a person from a charity come to visit me in my office and after they arrived and were talking to me, they said they didn’t know my background or anything about my company. Do you think it might have been smarter to be curious about me and the company I work for and do a little research in advance? Another person recently show up who had read a post on this blog that had been posted in the prior 24 hours. That person had done some research.
However you do it, I think that we each need to keep learning, being curious and engaging with the world around us.
Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee
I mentioned in a prior post that you need to read Andrew McAfee’s upcoming book called Enterprise 2.0. I hadn’t read it yet, but was looking forward to reading it based on his blog and other references to the ideas and work. Well, I bought a copy and finished it this past week. I enjoyed it and I’ve already recommended it to quite a few people. Here are some thoughts about it.
- The case studies in chapter 2 have elements of haunting familiarity that likely have parts that apply to many different companies. While I can’t extrapolate to every Enterprise, I certainly believe that everyone is trying to do more with less and trying to leverage their physical and people assets more and more every day.
- Chapter 4 is outstanding as it drives to the key reasons why the tools in the web 2.0 might just make a difference. To get better leverage, to move faster, to solve problems quicker, to get more minds working on the ‘opportunity of the day’ we need to connect with more problem solvers. We need more minds working on the ‘opportunity.’ We need to convert people who are farther away from us into people who are helping us solve problems. There is some good research that helps underpin why these tools make a difference.
- Chapter 5 talks about why these tools are different. I liked the headings in the chapter so much that I used them to make a point in a meeting where I was involved. These tools are ‘uniquely valuable’ which is the title of the chapter. I won’t repeat the points here but this is the best chapter in the book.
- There is plenty of good material throughout the book and I wrote all through my copy (usually I read on Kindle but I anticipated that I’d write a lot on this so I went for the real book this time). The final thoughts of the book are around new ways of thinking and IT investments and goals. Good material to share with your leadership team and your CFO.
I really recommend this book and these ideas. It should be emphasized that these tools alone don’t make the difference. It takes new ways of thinking about working together and while this book and others can speed you along that path, I’m convinced that you’ve got to walk the journey yourself together with your colleagues. We are using wikis and I’ve been blogging inside the company for over 1.5 years and I can look back and see how my thinking has evolved over that time and how I’ve seen problems differently the further down the path I’ve gone. Perhaps I’ll write about that another time.
Get the book.
Mark McDonald wrote an excellent article on the Rules for IT Are Changing and I wanted to highlight it here. I read this weeks ago and keep thinking about it.
I really agree that the landscape of IT leadership is changing. The big infrastructure investments that IT has made are just necessary to be in the game. ERP is needed to be in the game, but it does not differentiate anything anymore. We have to keep the networks up, telephones working, mail being delivered, etc.
Seems to me that once all the things above are well done and in control, the next difference maker or value creator is around collaboration and how well IT helps the company collaborate internally and with others.
BTW, Mark’s blog is excellent and recommended.
Being part of a global organization, I have IT staff located around the world. I’ve always struggled to connect with this globally scattered organization as it is just too hard to get everywhere and still have a life. A year and half ago, I started a blog inside the company on our wiki platform. This communication channel has transformed how I communicate with my organization and others around the world. Let me give you some examples:
- I’ve announced the start of our IT Strategic Planning process and we’ve post drafts for anyone to see and comment on. All were invited to give us input.
- I’ve talked about critical issues like business continuity planning, Green IT coordination, electronic security and many other topics. I’ve used the channel to share what and why.
- Values have been discussed numerous times. Trust is a big one.
- Lots of talk about collaboration and highlighting what that means and where we are getting traction with better collaboration.
- Recognize people who have accomplished something important. Perhaps a new certification, or a patent or a great new result on some project. It is great to recognize people who’ve done great things!
- One of the teams in a partner organization made some great use of tools we provided. I got to highlight that team and their work. I’ve been able to connect with lots of folks outside of IT.
To do a blog, you’ve got to 1) have things to write about and 2) find a voice to talk about these topics. If you are in IT where you might be involved in a security discussion, followed by some network management discussion, followed by mobile computing, followed by a dialog with a vendor, etc. etc. in just a single day, then you have many things you can write about. Then all you have to do is find a voice. You find a voice by just starting and finding it.
I think that CIOs need to communicate a lot.
I’ve got a question about how others do estimating and then use those estimates in their portfolio planning process. If you estimate the cost and a finish date on an IT project (or really any project for that matter) and over the course of working the project, conditions change where the estimates are no longer valid, how do you handle the change? Do you revise estimates along the way and then have the resulting situation where the final product ‘meets’ your new revised estimates? Or do you hold yourself accountable to your original estimates from the very beginning?
If a group is serious about trying to get the estimates right in the first place and then measuring accuracy over the course of months, quarters and years, how you answer this question is very important. It seems that you must hold yourself accountable to your first estimates because they are the ones that were used to make a go/nogo decision in the first place. Furthermore, you want to setup a closed loop process where you try to shrink the gaps over time and minimize errors as you get better at estimating.
This breaks down when events beyond the control of the team affect the project. Perhaps an unexpected M&A effort effects everything or changes in leadership dramatically change priorities on the portfolio. In situations like these, the original estimates can be meaningless.
Also, you are learning things as you go along. Conditions change, priorities change, people leave, etc. Somehow you need to account for these learnings along the way so you can always provide the best estimate possible as your progress through the project.
I saw a recent report that talked about the need for IT shops to get better at estimating. Seems like I need to get a good answer on this question first.
I’d be curious how other address this?
OK, I’m going to shamelessly link to one of my own companies blogs because the post and embedded YouTube video about a data center disaster needs to be further spread. I don’t know if this is an old or new incident (didn’t look up dates) but it is quite telling and certainly not funny from a CIO perspective. However, the video might be of use to someone trying to make a point about the need for real disaster recovery planning and business continuity planning.
A year ago, I wrote on my internal company blog about why we do disaster recovery planning and why we make investments to protect our assets in our data centers. As can be easily expected, that night we had a major power outage and one of our data centers was off-line for several hours. Great timing. I wrote post about it the next day and fell on my sword.
We’ve experienced a situation where the line power from the local utility becomes unstable and goes off and on in a random, rapid fashion and the resulting up and down power fluctuation damages one of our backup power systems which then brings down the whole grid in the site. The backup system fails. Thank you.
We’ve also planned around the SARs outbreak and we had to split some of our teams into two groups that did not cross paths in order to keep each team separate and hopefully healthy. In the case of SARs, we even saw were some local governments were considering closing facilities where outbreaks were happening in order to contain the spread. How would your data center work if it was closed and local staff could not get in for a period of time? Have you planned for that one?
My favorite is when an contract electrician doing work in the site elects to shutdown power to the whole data center without talking to anyone in advance.
In short, as I posted earlier, you can’t really predict all the things that might go wrong.
I just spent the past few days at the Cisco CIO Summit and it was a great experience. Lots of discussion about web 2.0, security, telepresence and all wrapped up around the need to be have better collaboration inside organizations and between organizations. I think we are going to find that the next five years are going to be defined by better collaboration in the enterprise. We’ve got to keep reducing friction between individuals and teams and we’ve got to leverage talent all over the world more effectively. It just has to be because organizations have got to get more productive with the resources they have in place.
We’ve been using some of these ideas and tools with some of our teams with good results. More to do however.
Read Andrew McAfee’s new book when it comes out and plug into all the writings and dialog taking place around on the topic. There is also a great post on HBR called the Collaborative Imperative. And there is another really good post called A New Approach to Social Computing which I recommend.