Clay Shirky at Gartner Symposium

This past week I heard Clay Shirky speak at one the keynotes at the Gartner Symposium. Here are some of the thoughts that he shared:

  1. Business is changing due to social media. Social media is about everything, not just business.
  2. People and machines and companies are intertwined and the lines are blurring. He told funny stories of individuals being upset with a bank’s new policy and fees and starting a grassroots campaign on Facebook critical of the policy and the bank then reverting the policy back.  Unhappy customers in the past could complain but now they can coordinate their campaigns and complaints.
  3. This is both a threat and an opportunity!
  4. Business needs to understand that in the past communications were between individuals and the company. Now it is between all parties simultaneously. The network and connection possibilities are huge.
  5. Access to information has changed in regards to amount, availability, speed and cost.
  6. Amateur public speech is now real and powerful.
  7. Individuals can network and form groups locally or around the world.

The impact on IT is huge and IT needs to recognize that social networks and media are being dragged and carried into the workplace.  IT needs to figure this out proactively, as many firms are doing. He told the story of the DARPA challenge to find 10 red balloons deployed around the country and how people at MIT solved the problem by attacking it with brillant social network thinking.

The idea of cognitive surplus being harnessed to solve problems was terrific. He told funny stories about blog policies at companies the amount of time spent on wikipedia vs tv and a funny story about a reusable camera sold by a drug store. Good stuff.

He closed by saying the companies can likely find out more about the drinking habits of their employees than their work habits.

Lots to consider. I’ve not read his book yet, but will soon.

A Few Great Posts to Read

Wanted to pass along a few great posts that I’ve collected from others in the past weeks.  Some of these I’m still thinking about and might post further on later.

  1. Mark McDonald is at Garter Group and he wrote a piece called  12 Things Every Business Needs To Know About IT on his blog.
  2. There is an article on Forbes CIO Central called The Coming Crisis of IT Management which has a lot of good points.  I might share this with my boss and use this piece and the prior one with my boss as a conversation starter.
  3. JD Meier wrote a great piece on Business Scenarios for the Cloud which outlines business reasons why cloud solutions make sense.
  4. And finally Bertrand Duperrin always writes great stuff about collaboration and social networking in the enterprise.  He wrote an interesting note called Making the Most of Key Resources in Collaboration about attention, connections and communication.  I’m still thinking about this one.

I recommend watching all their pages too.

Tie Everything Together

In the last few months, I’ve encountered several different situations where a different and better paradigm is needed for pulling all ones information together into one place on a mobile platform (or a desktop).   Today, the iPhone model is one of separate applications on the screen with the user of the iPhone navigating from one application to another.  A person might check their email in one application, then launch another application (with a different UI) to check Facebook, then repeat for Twitter, etc.

Instead, a different paradigm would be to bring the related content together into one place.   There was a post on line a few months ago that caught my eye about an Android application called Aro that pulled together different sources into a single pane or view.  I’ve also noticed on the current Windows 7 phones steps in this direction where the people view ties together information from the phone address book with information from Facebook in a very well done and slick fashion.

The need is there to bring everything together into one place instead of having separate islands. In the corporate world, this one place is usually (always?) email because that is the one common place that all applications can work with in a consistent manner.  Online approvals in corporate applications can almost always send an email with a URL  to approve something. As a result, email is the common place in the workplace. But putting things in a person’s inbox is not the same as integrating the data together.

In the mobile world where the integration can be much tighter and where applications are being built now instead of perhaps 10 years ago for corporate IT systems there is a real opportunity to pull these connections or conversations or information nuggets together into a common place. I’d love to see all pieces of information related to a person brought together into a single view.

I look forward to where Windows 7, Android and the Iphone go in the coming year.  There is much opportunity.

It’s in the Cloud

I’ve been thinking these past few days about how much data is being slowly moved into cloud data centers all over the place.. I don’t mean a single cloud data center, but I mean hundreds of them as we use one new smart phone app after another.    Smart phones and very cool applications on the desktops are sharing data we enter via copying it somewhere to a cloud data center.   Applications like Evernote, Instapaper, Dropbox, Google Apps, Apple Mobile Me and literally countless other are copying data loaded into our smartphones into storage somewhere in the cloud.   Do any of us have any idea what kind of security is being manged in those data centers?  I love these applications, but we are quietly and slowly copying important data about ourselves into unknown data centers in unknown locations with unknown protection.

At the corporate level, the same is true.   Employees are carrying smart phones with these applications loaded and then using them for their personal information and data storage.   Phone numbers, ID numbers, passwords, instructions, etc. are being stored in these applications and then copied into the cloud.   Corporations are likely having their IP and their security keys slowly being stored in these clouds of unknown security levels without even realizing it as workers and executives use these apps more and more.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these apps and I love the productivity boost they give me.  However, I have a growing concern that at the corporate level, companies might be putting themselves at greater risk than they realize.   And it is almost a problem that nobody wants to discuss because we don’t want our convenient apps being blocked in the work place.

Would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Thank You and Well Done

I was in a meeting years ago where a senior executive told us that he didn’t believe other senior leaders in an organization needed to be told ‘good job’ or ‘thanks’ regarding their work.   Senior leaders are self-starters and don’t need this kind of re-enforcement.

Wrong.  Everyone wants to be valued and hope that their work is making a difference.   Everyone.

This morning I got an email from a person who used to work in my organization.  He has since moved on to a new place and then another new place.   He said at one place where he worked after leaving here they ‘had no leadership at any level’ and at the other place the highest ranking person ‘has no idea how to lead.’  The purpose of his email was just to tell me that after seeing some other IT organizations, he just wanted to say ‘good job’ for what we are doing here.   He went on to talk about goal alignment, ethics and about making a difference while here.

This is one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received and he did not need to send it.   As you can guess, it made my day and I appreciate him taking the time to send this to me.

Whereever you are stop what you are doing and send someone a ‘good job’ note or a ‘thank you’ note.    Your act of kindness  might be the only one they get today.

CIO as General Manager?

I’ve been reflecting a bit lately about what it means to be a general manager and how that relates to those who manage IT organizations. In the days that I’ve been thinking about this, a post on the same subject caught my eye called Can good IT make great business leaders?. There is a quote in the article that I want to highlight and discuss:

Largely shielded from the real work of the business, IT…

which is a key point in the article. IT shouldn’t be largely shielded from the real work of the business. Instead, it should be part of the business, part of the conversations, part of the planning and certainly part of the solutions.   The mission of IT shouldn’t be something about IT, it should echo the mission of the whole enterprise. If the enterprise makes widgets, then the mission of IT should be to help the business design, make and sell great widgets. If IT has that kind of mission, then it is not shielded from the real work of the business, but it is the real work of the business.

I do think learning the language of the business is important as well as great collaboration and communication skills. In many firms, IT can be a $100M or larger business itself complete with contracts, infrastructure, sales, customer support, engineering and finance responsibilities.  If you are the CIO you should run IT as a business and try to maximize your results with minimal costs.  It seems that if you do these things, then you are on the path towards being a great general manager.

Have Ipad Will Travel

I’ve now done two trips with just an iPad and my mobile phone (an iPhone) and no laptop.   I have to say that it works, but not perfectly.  On the plus side I can access company mail/calendar, personal email and internet resources just fine and that is 90% of what I need.   Throw in Evernote for notes and other apps and the package works well.  The lighter weight and smaller form factor make for a very attractive set for travel.

However, I’ve also realized that I could do all of this on the iPhone as the iPad just gives me a bigger screen to view the content. I’ve not really used the Ipad for watching movies either and I listen to music on the iPhone, not the iPad.  I like having the bigger screen of the iPad for doing longer runs of email and for looking at presentations and documents.   However, I really miss a real keyboard.   No matter what, typing on the touch screen is just not as good or as fast as typing with a real keyboard.   I can’t bring myself to buy a bluetooth keyboard because I’m adding more weight/complexity and then I’m back to the laptop.   I also have to say that I want more storage because I’m used to having all my files with me as well as lots of media.  The iPad just doesn’t hold it all and there are times when I’m not connected to any network.    And there are still applications that won’t work via Safari on the iPad.

One interesting point is that I’m seeing a lot of business people traveling with them.  They are showing up on airplanes, in airports, at Starbucks and in meetings.  I’ve been in several meetings recently where 10% to 30% of the participants had iPads.  Shocking and interesting.   I’ve also noticed business offers where you can be entered into a drawing to win an iPad or 1 of 5 iPads, etc.   Join our webinar and be entered to win an iPad…

I’m really interested to see how the next generation of slates work out and how well they are adopted by business users.

It looks to me like you are going to have a home computer ‘base’ and then have multiple mobile devices connected and sync some/all of your key content when traveling.    I want it all when I’m traveling.  I feel better if it is with me.