Monday, June 27, 2016


One life lesson I carry with me is to reach out and say "Hello" to someone I don't know. That follows from the "Four I's" of building relationships:
  1. Initiate
  2. Inquire
  3. Invest
  4. Inspire

You start a new relationship with Initiate (for example, "Hi there!") and Inquire (such as "My name is —. What's your name?"). Over time, you Invest in the relationship. When you have built up enough currency in your relationship, you can Inspire your new friend to raise the bar or to help you out. This fourth "I" is sometimes called "Influence."

I have made a point of learning how to say "Hello" in different languages. This was a helpful skill when I worked in higher education and regularly met with students, including international students. Outside that setting, I find being able to greet someone in their own language helps to break down barriers, so I can reach out to someone I don't know. Something as simple as "Hello" can create an instant connection.

I can say "Hello" in several languages:
  1. Buenos días ("Good morning") or Hola ("Hello," Spanish)
  2. Bonjour (French)
  3. Ni Hao (Chinese: 你好)
  4. Guten Morgen ("Good morning") or Hallo ("Hello," German)
  5. Aloha (Hawai'ian)
  6. Ya'at'eeh (Navajo)
  7. Buongiorno ("Good morning") or Ciao ("Hello," Italian)
  8. Kon'nichiwa (Japanese: こんにちは)
  9. Yeoboseyo (Korean: 여보세요)
  10. Zdravstvuyte (Russian: Здравствуйте)
  11. Marhabaan ("Hello," Arabic: مرحبا)
  12. As-salaamu 'alaykum (literally "Peace be unto you," Arabic: السلام عليكم‎‎) and the response: Wa'alaykumu s-salaam ("and upon you, Peace")

There is also "nuqneH" (in Klingon) but I don't get many occasions to use that one.

In how many languages can you greet someone? Even if you conduct business in English (BELF, or "Business English as Lingua Franca") you'll find value in saying "Hello" in a different language.
image: Wikimedia: "Hello my name is" sticker

Monday, June 20, 2016

IT organizations must adapt or die

I reviewed an IT status update earlier this week, and it gave me pause. The update mentioned several applications that we are currently replacing or updating. One, I noted, was first implemented in 1998. That's a very long time ago. It's effectively forever in "IT time."

Think about how much things have changed since that application first went live in 1998. Back then, most of us used desktops. Laptops were available, but in the company where I worked, only the CEO and CIO used laptops. They were too expensive for the rest of us. Cell phones were common, but they were big, blocky affairs that only made phone calls.

And of course, we had Windows 98.

Technology is always changing. You don't have to go back very far to see how quickly technology evolves. Ask yourself how things will be different a few years from now.

IT organizations must adapt to constant change, or they will die. Don't be the next CIO who might have brought change. Be the CIO who embraces change.

To be adaptive and responsive, I see three major trends in future IT organizations:

Business partnership is critical
Relationships with the rest of the organization must be intentional and structural. This means processes and roles. IT is the translation point between business needs and technology. CIOs who maintain strong relationships will be able to connect business needs to technology.
Workforce skills must evolve
As technology changes, we need to continually invest in our staff. Shifting from internally-developed and -developed appliations to commodity off-the-shelf systems requires IT to move focus from development to integration. Vendor management must be intentional.
IT must be a leader
The business relies on the CIO to set a direction for technology. Be that leader. IT is uniquely positioned to see across departments and technologies, and can be proactive in recommending solutions and strategies. We may not be able to predict the future of technology, but we can describe the general shape it will take. Provide a roadmap, keep it updated, and tie it to business objectives.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Words to avoid

As part of any manager's role is writing documentation. As a line manager, you might write procedures or standards. As a director you might write directives or vision goals. At the CIO level, I write a lot of executive briefings for other leaders or for our Board.

Over my career, I have learned a few things about effective communication. For example, use active voice. "Passive voice should never be used by you." So I was interested to read "15 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter" from Business Insider. As the title implies, these are 15 words to avoid in any communication, written or spoken:

  1. That
  2. Went
  3. Honestly
  4. Absolutely
  5. Very
  6. Really
  7. Amazing
  8. Always
  9. Never
  10. Literally
  11. Just
  12. Maybe
  13. Stuff
  14. Things
  15. Irregardless

Several of these words lessen your credibility. One example is "Honestly." A colleague outside of work uses "Honestly" in his emails. I am sure he means to use it as a kind of "break" in his writing, or perhaps to lend emphasis to his next statement. But I find it often negates what he just said. If you are only now being honest with me, should I ignore what you wrote previously?

Consider what words you use in your communication. A few word replacements can add impact and raise awareness.

Monday, June 6, 2016

About governance

IT can be organized differently, depending on the business. At one end, IT might be the business (think Google). In these organizations, IT is tightly coupled with the business, it is inseparable. Or IT might be autonomous, distributed throughout the organization, where every business unit has independent control over technology. At the other end of the spectrum, IT might be federated, either loosely or tightly, to account for different decision-making. Federated means that a core IT unit coordinates with business units, which may have limited control over specific technology. Or IT can be completely centralized, a service unit that the business treats like any other provider or vendor (I worked at a company owned by a law firm, which treated IT in this way).

No matter how IT is organized, you must always consider how IT is governed. How do you ensure that IT is meeting the needs of the business?

Putting aside the obvious case of "IT is the business," IT requires a method of governance. This governance can be formal or informal depending on the relative maturity of the business and of IT. But at some point, IT needs help to "vet" IT decisions to best serve the needs of the business.

How do you organize your IT governance? Governance can take on many forms, but the general process is that someone listens to business needs, and a governance group prioritizes requests and creates projects to execute them. A simple diagram might look like this:

intake coordinator
work groups

Of course, this is a simple process flow. Other IT governance models might need to account for different inputs, such as executive levels, customers, faculty, business units, and other governance bodies. And the model might have several output paths to assign work, such as different IT units or vendors and partners.

business units
other governance
IT unitsvendorspartners

Your governance model depends on what role IT plays in your organization. Is IT the driving force of the business, or is IT a business partner, or is IT merely a "vendor" for technology services? The governance model also depends on the other groups in your organization. Are you decentralized, or highly structured? What is the maturity level of the business and of the IT unit? These factors will help inform your governance model.