3 things I’ve been struggling with as I adjust to working remote.

Files, files, and more files!

Files, files, and more files!

I mentioned a few posts back that after much time and consideration we decided to go remote. So far the results have been great. I haven’t noticed any change in productivity and while I don’t get to see people in person as often as we did previously I’ve gotten used to spending a lot of time on Google Hangout, GoToMeeting and Webinars. The one thing I have noticed is that by moving my office home I’ve ended up with a mountain of technology. In fact I had to open a second home office in my basement to hold all of it.

This has not been popular at home as their are other parties in this house (wife) that feel the basement should one day be re-claimed by our family as a place where people can play a little rougher (kids) and watch TV shows that are boring (me). While I have gotten used to my expansive new office I know that this is only going to last for so long and so I’ve begun to identify the services I can use to replace some of the items I’ve brought home and planted in the basement. Here are three problems I’ve had to deal with because of going virtual and one the jury is still out on.

1. Problem: The Fax Machine – Faxes are on the way out but not quite dead. My wife has recently introduced me to eFax which she has used for years and which seems to be an enormous improvement over the huge fax machine I brought home and perched on an end table.

Solution: eFax has a corporate edition that represents a significant upgrade in capability and very little added expenditure.

2. Servers – All of our client oriented servers have long been moved to the cloud or into the Salesforce Dev Environment we maintain, but I still have two racks and about 15 servers and assorted hardware appliances that are eating up electricity at an incredible rate and supporting little internal functions. In fact our electric bill jumped $400 in the first month we went virtual and that only covered two weeks of uptime.

Solution: Everything is going to the cloud in the next three months. We advise some of the largest organizations in the world on the benefits of moving to the cloud there is no reason we should continue to have legacy infrastructure eating away at the bottom line for convenience sake. We simply hadn’t put the resources necessary to the task of migrating these items. Now we will.

3. Files – This is the one I’m still struggling with – going virtual meant bringing home  a mountain of paper. Given the type of work we do – we generate a lot of paper in order to maintain compliance with various federal, state and local requirements. This is before you start talking about all of the other things we track on paper with regard to client engagements and otherwise.

Solution – The jury is out on this one. We could spend a lot of time and effort digitizing but right now I don’t see anyway around the wall full of filing cabinets I am maintaining. Some things simply have to stay on paper and we have a paper legacy that would probably take a staff of five all summer to digitize going full time. I’m open to suggestions.

After almost three months of going remote cold turkey I have to say I’m still glad we did. It represents a tremendous savings which eventually will make us more competitive in a very competitive market space. We still haven’t ruled out having some type of permanent facility with meeting rooms and some permanent offices though. The one thing I really miss is having that big room where a development or client team can gather and brainstorm. We have done some virtual sessions but it really isn’t the same. I’ve talked to some other companies facing this issue that have essentially taken on a small space for this purpose and have heard nothing but good things. It seems like a happy medium between the benefits of being completely virtual and completely on premise.

As always, I welcome your feedback and I know there are some folks on here that feel very strongly about remote work. Let me know what you have found that works and what hasn’t. I’m particularly interested in finding a way to limit the physical intrusion of our paper legacy (maybe its as simple as a storage facility?) and solutions around collaboration for large groups in a remote environment. I’ll share what I find out in a blog post soon.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Don’t wait for opportunity to knock

Unknown

I think one of the most important things you can do for yourself is take an active interest in your career and search out the best opportunities for you to succeed. It’s critical that you keep your eyes and ears open as you progress through your career. While it’s great to be comfortable it’s also important to keep in mind that the next best job or the next best opportunity isn’t necessarily going to be there when you need it to be there; it’s going to be there on it’s own time.  So maintaining a bit of a monitoring stance is something that can pay dividends.

I’m not saying that this approach is for everybody. There’s a lot ot be said for continuity, being able to grow within an organization, building up trust with other people, and getting the type of satisfaction that comes with achieving complex goals over many years with a tight knit group of people. That’s something that you dont see that often anymore for various reasons.

If you’re even remotely thinking that you might do something a little bit differfent from your current job, you want to do yourself the favor of being proactive about it rather than waiting for something to happen that forces you to. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to look outside your current organization. It could be that you’re not aware of what’s going on within your organization. Make sure that your peers, boss, or upper management are aware of the capabilities that you have to step into some role that you dont have now but you feel that you could succeed in. This is preferable to standing by passively and watching them fill that role and position with somebody from the outside.

It’s important in managing your career that you periodically step back and take a look at the big picture. Ask yourself where do you want to end up in twenty years in order to make sure that you aren’t falling into a comfortable rut. This way you’re able to progress yourself and I think that’s the part that a lot of people don’t get right.  People work to develop their skills and sometimes they forget to look for that great opportunity unitl something forces them to. At that point your stuck with the opportunities that are available at the time and great opportunities don’t always happen on your time; they hapen on their own time.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The therapeutic value of an unsent e-mail

Therapeutic value of an unsent email

I think the best ten minutes I spent this morning were ten minutes that were basically wasted.  I’ll never send the email I crafted in that time and it’s probably for the best but it certainly felt good writing it. So today’s unsent email happened because of a project we’ve been developing lately. We’ve been spending a lot of time working to develop an automated system with security and operational security capabilities for schools.  It’s something that I’m really passionate about and I believe there’s an opportunity to make a difference. I’ve got three kids and at the end of the day, job one to me for schools is getting my kids back home safely.  Of course I’d love it if they know their multiplication tables and their ABC’s but job one is just get them home safe.

One of the things that I’ve become a lot more aware of as my kids have gotten into school is I’ve become a lot more knowledgeable about what the statistics are around crime and safety in schools. It’s not the big incidences that you hear about on the news that should scare most parents because those are really unfortunate things that probably could have happened anywhere. Those are really difficult to prevent which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, it’s just that everyday there are lots of bad things happening that don’t make the news. Working to prevent those things is important too. So we’ve been trying to come up with a better way to have a conversation around the information in this space because there isn’t as much information as you would think.

We’re trying to help develop a mechanism to evaluate, across the board, the schools in this country for safety and security in a way that is economically feasible. If you know much about the schools in your community, you know that they’re probably facing some severe budgetary hurdles because the whole country is facing that issue. We saw this as an opportunity for the types of things that we’re good at in terms of being able to leverage the cloud to reduce costs, the development times, and to make things widely available rapidly. We saw this as a real opportunity for us to make a difference and we jumped into it. We basically jumped in and looked at many specific solutions. That’s part of what we do for a living whether it’s for large retail organizations, federal, or whatever it is, we bring our expertise in security, technology, information management, and performance management.

While we bring all our expertise in these areas we still look to other organizations to help make sure that we are looking at the problem all the way around. One of the things that I do not just with this school assessment but with every product that has been an outshoot of our services work, is reach out into that community and try to identify folks that may be able to help us ensure that what we are delivering is of the highest possible quality. So I’ve done some of that reaching out and you know at the outset of something like that, you’re going to get back some people who are going to take it as an attack on themselves. They will take it as attack on an area where they have their particular expertise. Essentially, you’re becoming competition.

So I’d sent a note to a gentleman and I’d spent a little bit of time trying to make sure that I emphasized the part explaining that what we’re trying to do is change the way that this space works in general. We want to make the economics work for schools and I got back a really nasty note. They basically said that they would never want to help a competitor and that we really didn’t know anything about the problem set. Like many other people, that type of response frustrates me.

So I spent about ten minutes putting together a response detailing all of the reasons why what we were doing is the right thing. I got to the end of it and realized that I would never send it. I didn’t send it because that response just adds fuel to the fire and it distracts from the mission at hand. So like I said that ten minutes was a waste of my time. I probably would have been better served to just say to myself, “You know what, this person is not interested in helping out, they don’t see the problem the way I see it, and they see what we’re doing as a threat to their livelihood.” It doesn’t help to get frustrated just because someone doesn’t see things your way. It’s probably a little bit childish. So it makes sense for me to not send that mail and that’s the bottom line but it was incredibly therapeutic for me to just put those thoughts down on paper. The simple act of getting those thoughts out of my head and into an email helped me to get over it even though I knew it would not be seen by anyone else.  I’m curious what other people think. Probably once every three or four days I write up a pretty good sized email and then don’t send it because I believe in the therapeutic value in authoring those emails. Word of caution to avoid unpleasant mishaps needs to be noted, make sure to delete them out of my draft folder to make sure they don’t get sent.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Upgraders beware: A tale of hidden costs and frustrations

Blog 3-19-13

So I recently I upgraded to Windows 8 and while I’m sure that the software is a big improvement over XP, which is what I had on this particular machine, it became a source of much frustration for me. It all started when I ran Microsoft’s compatibility utility to see where I stood with my upgrade.  It flagged Skype as having issues, and about ten other pieces of software as requiring an upgrade after installation. The computer that we were doing it on was for an admin and so we said ok we’ll go ahead and do the upgrade.  I stepped through the basic steps to install the operating system and once it was done our admin went to go work on a piece of correspondence. Microsoft Office didn’t work. In fact, Microsoft Office couldn’t be found, so clearly there must be a mistake.  So we took a look at it and couldn’t figure out how to get it work and decided to contact Microsoft. This was where the trouble really began.

When we got a hold of Microsoft they said that this has been known to happen and asked if we had the keys to our previous Microsoft Office install? Well as you can guess from the fact that it was an XP machine, it’s a pretty old installation. In fact, it was several years old and we’re a small business and we couldn’t find the licensing keys. We had moved offices since it had been installed and one of the things we lost was a book with a lot of the licensing keys and other things in it.  So I ask the Microsoft contact, with the assumption that it should be fairly simple to get a key, to get the problem worked out, or to roll back to the original configuration, what to do. The admin spent about three hours on the phone, got hung up on twice, and couldn’t get anything accomplished.

So I got on the chat and found out that there was no way to get back to XP and that I’d have to buy a new copy of Microsoft Office. I had to do this despite the fact that we have downloaded lots of other things from the Microsoft store. We should be listed as a pretty good customer and have been a Microsoft partner in the past. I guess at the end of the day my frustration stems out of all the software problems we could possibly have, this one is clearly by design. It would appear to be to drive revenue because otherwise why wouldn’t you mention the probability of losing your Office access in the installation somewhere. Putting something like, “Make sure if you do this upgrade you have your product keys available, otherwise you’re going to have to buy new software.” It just seems that given the fact that they take a lot of time to warn you about many other software issues you might experience, it seems disingenuous to not warn you about software problems that they know you’re going to have; like if you have Microsoft office it’s not going to work when you start Windows 8 back up. Also if you don’t have your license keys or access to the physical media that you installed from, you’re not going o be able to use it.

Now I understand that they have an interest in maintaining a hold over there software but on some level, I feel like we’re probably on the lower end of likely pirates given that we’re a software company and buy plenty of other things from Microsoft.  If we were pirating software we probably would have got a crack for all the accompanying software and taken care of the problem ourselves. The fact that they’re not willing to issue a new license key is ridiculous. Either warn us in advance if you know this problem is likely to happen or don’t make a big issue of it when you call in.  Basically, we had three separate support people tell us that there’s nothing else that we can do besides buy the license. It’s already cost us more in resource time then it would have been to buy the license in the first place. It’s just bad business and is leaving an extremely poor taste in my mouth.

A few years back, we had decided to standardize on Windows despite the fact that most of us had been Mac users for a long time. This standardization of Windows was really for the access to some business software. In fact, to this day I write and use almost solely my Mac, which makes this situation even more frustrating because I’ve never experienced this sort of problem with Mac. It makes me wonder if Microsoft, other than having the type of market dominance that it’s had, would they abuse their customers this way if they were in a less dominant position.  It makes me curious what other people think about this. Do you think that since I don’t have the license it means I don’t own it and was right to be made to rebuy it or you they feel that an accommodation should have been made for me?  I’d be very curious to hear what people’s feedback is.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

How to tackle the job search without the stress

Job search blog

Scouring the marketplace for a new job is stressful under the best of circumstances but you can also turn it into an opportunity. You can take this time to not only improve your job situation but also to improve other aspects of your life, if you can utilize this exciting time without getting overwhelmed by all the pressures that go into this change. I would like to go into some ways I’ve found that really seem to help in the pursuit of new employment. First of all, I think your best approach is to proactively approach organizations you have an interest in working in. Take it serious and research some of the people in the organizations you are looking to join. Make sure you use the successes you have behind you that are quantifiable and unique to give you the competitive edge in your quest. This should be a major selling point.

Even though job searching is a difficult task, it’s one of great importance and should be treated as such.  So resolve not to do this thing in a sprint.  You need to take your time in order to make the best decision. This is your life you’re talking about and not having a great work situation colors everything else in your life. Expect that this is going to take you around six weeks to resolve, so remember to do it at a pace intended to win the war not the opening battle. Start by making an initial plan that carries you through the next 7-10 days. Identify some key milestones.  Here’s a sample timeline:

  • Complete cover letter – Target (Monday by 9PM)
  • Complete resume – Target (Monday by 9PM)
  • Identify 10 target opportunities – (Wednesday by 9PM)
  • Identify 3 people who can help me expand my coverage (Thursday by 9PM)
  • Treat Myself and Relax (Saturday & Sunday, but still get 8 hours sleep)
  • Contact 15 people (The 13 above, plus three based on those conversations (Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
  • Make a New Plan (Thursday & Friday)

Note: Ask each of these people at the end of the conversation if they know someone else who can help or who you should talk to next. Put this down as a note when you are doing the call.  This not only impresses the people you talk to, it is a great way to move the process forward with the best results.

Identify times to rest and relax explicitly. Choose to do something that will take your mind off things but do as part of a schedule and keep it within the schedule. Remember that down time is as important as the time you spend on the go. If you don’t rest you won’t be effective when you are going and you need to be at the top of your game for the next few weeks.

Like I mentioned earlier, making big changes in your career might also be a good time to look into improving the other areas of your life as well. Make sure you get rest you need and eat well. This might be a good time to try the Paleo diet I recommended. Mark’s book is a great start on that and I think if you spend some six weeks on it, you will feel better both mentally and physically. One of the things I have really noticed as I’ve reduced my sugar intake is that I have more stable moods. The combination of job stressors and personal life can grind on you, and eating well and ensuring you get 8 hours of sleep is imperative.  Commit to it for the next six weeks while you are trying to transition to a new job.

I’ll finish with this piece of advice – keep the next few weeks as simple as possible. I know that when I have a bunch of moving parts in my life, I sometimes have to focus on just a few and address them so that I can be functional enough to address other issues. I’m sure this isn’t a good move in the longer term if it causes you to avoid dealing with un-healthy area of your life, but sometimes you have to survive before you thrive. I also think that focusing in on just a few things gives you a chance to get things moving in a positive direction by giving you enough resources to overcome that particular set of obstacles. I hope people find this helpful but I’d be curious to know what other people’s thoughts are on the job search process.  What advice would you give to someone who is beginning the process of looking for another job?

Photo By o5com

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Recruiting for company culture

Recruiting for company culture

One of the things that we’ve tried really hard to do over the last couple years as a company is to recruit for culture.  When I say that, I mean we’ve spent a lot more time recently talking to people about:

  • who they are
  • what they want to do long term
  • what kind of work environment do they prefer to work in

While this is something we are looking at now more than we ever have previously, we obviously still do a technical interview where we make sure the people can do the job.  The difference is that the technical interview is really considered just a gateway at this point.  We spend a lot more time on fit then we do anything else. The first interview which is to get the person through the technical gate is usually conducted by whoever on staff is going to have them working for them or going to be working closely with them. They conduct the preliminary interview which is probably 60%- 70% can you do the job and even there, there’s a part of it that is seeing how they respond to things and seeing if they send back a thank you afterwards. As I mentioned before we are looking to see if this person will fit into our organization, will they get along with current staff, and for someone who shows basic good people skills. We want people that are considerate, the people that do all of the things that you learned in kindergarten very well. We are also concerned with what you learned in college but if you missed those lessons in kindergarten, we may not hire you just because it’s too hard to work in an environment where it’s all about solely the technical part of things.

I can see maybe in some larger environments where the technical may trump other things because it’s the thing that’s most easily measureable.  Maybe once you hit a certain size of organization some of that corporate culture is diluted. I myself don’t tend to believe that though because I’ve worked in some very large organizations that have very strong corporate cultures but I could see how it could happen. I just know that for us and for ours, one of the most important things that we look for is that ability a person shows that they’re going to be able to fit in and work with us and show that they can be a true teammate. We’re not looking for individual star performers or somebody who is solely focused on their own achievements because that doesn’t work very well in team environments.  So we engage heavily to figure out what types of things are they interested in and what are they interested in most about the types of people that they work with because you can pick up clues there about how and if they value teamwork and collaboration.  I’m very curious to hear about what other people look for as they interview and how they go about maintaining corporate culture in their own organizations.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Is remote work, too remote?

moon-walk-60616_640

So it’s a little soggy out in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA decided to cancel school. The Federal government is also opening late and its flu season, which means a lot of people are out of the office today. I’m one of the lucky ones. My wife drew the short straw this morning which means that while she will be trying to work from her home office with three kids doing some serious stress testing of their toys, our walls, and her sanity, all less than 10 feet away. This got me thinking about working from home, the pressures of family and work life, and how an organization should deal with these issues. On the one hand we have never been as prepared as a society to enable working from anywhere, anytime and anyplace. I am living proof of that having held conference calls, webinars, etc from hospitals, on vacations, and from my home office.

The question then becomes how connected is too connected and how close a tether to the “real” office do you need to retain to be effective. Openly, I do not fall in the camp of those who believe the end of the communal office is near. I truly believe that working together physically improves collaboration and teamwork. I love video conferencing because it is closer to real physical meetings, but it still isn’t the same as being right next to someone. There is a certain element of teamwork and collaboration that I just don’t feel is possible from a remote location. It’s one of the reasons why I can’t ever foresee my company going towards a remote workforce in a big way, despite the huge advantages from a cost standpoint. I just don’t believe you can hang on to the esprit de corps and sense of community that comes from sharing a physical space. I don’t mind having people work from home in order to get projects that require uninterrupted concentration complete, or when the cable guy is coming to the house, etc. I just don’t see it as a sustainable everyday model.

Of course most of my view into this is shaped either by view of the work my company does, which is consultative, or the work of our clients, which varies from large private sector to large public sector. I can certainly see advantages for some of our clients, particularly those with small-scale presences in many locations to remote work. It makes sense in these types of cases to set up your teams to work primarily from their home office or to leverage shared space, etc. Obviously, for retail, manufacturing, etc the need to be onsite is different than in the knowledge work community. How does your organization manage remote work? Is this the right approach? What are the pitfalls/benefits you have found?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

CIO vs. CTO

Don’t wrestle over tasking, there is plenty of responsibility to go around

Count me among the many who have been confused at times by what it really means to be CIO vs. CTO. Both jobs are generally technology oriented, both include responsibility for the delivery of technology to the business, and both jobs require advanced leadership and communication skills. Let me say up front that there is no real agreement with regard to the specific responsibilities of each role. Some delineate the role with regard to the major challenges they attempt to solve, i.e. either inward facing or externally facing. This isn’t a valuable distinction because it doesn’t lend itself to the role clarity necessary to handle the problems that come with leading an IT organization. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules with regard to responsibilities, or even to who reports to whom. Some technology-focused organizations have CIOs reporting to CTOs, as opposed to CTOs reporting to CIOs; which is more common in traditional organizations. CTOs as the head of IT are “more common in technology-related organizations like computer manufacturers, value-added resellers, IT consultancies and financial services companies.”[1] In fact, the rise of the CTO position itself is a rather recent phenomenon that began to gain traction in the 1990s.  Having both roles is growing and my personal belief is that there is plenty of work to be shared at the top-tier of management within an IT organization. It makes sense to divide the work. I should be clear that what follows isn’t prescriptive. What works for one organization may not work for another and the needs of a large diversified conglomerate are going to be different from the needs of a tightly focused technology organization. I’m giving you my take on what the role should be, the skills required, and the impact they should have on the organization.

In organizations where the role of the CIO is that of the senior most Information Technology executive in the organization, the CIO often “serves as the company’s top technology infrastructure manager” [2] in contrast to the CTO, who “serves as the company’s top technology architect.”[3] Given the large role information technology has come to play in most organizations, technology infrastructure is business critical. The CIO therefore plays a primary role in supporting and in some cases driving the day-to-day business operations of the organization. This is by nature a risk averse and conservative role that is focused on ensuring that today’s work gets done, without necessarily an over emphasis on tomorrow. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be looking forward as a CIO; it simply recognizes that if you don’t make it through today you won’t be around to see the future. The criticality of IT and its importance to the organization means that CIOs will be less focused on specific technologies or the “bits and bytes of the technology.” This is often reflected in the fact that many organizations will fill this role with a more “business-oriented” executive; focused on delivering overall business value and running the business of IT, but who may be less technology savvy or have grown less so over time.

The overwhelming focus of the CIO is on ensuring ongoing operations, mission critical systems and security. With regard to ongoing operations, the CIO’s direct responsibilities should include the ongoing support and management of all enterprise systems, help desks, service delivery, and portfolio and program management. The last two responsibilities I mention, that of program and portfolio management oversight, is an area that should be closely coordinated with the CTO and one I will discuss in detail in my discussion of the CTOs role.  That this is where I see real value in the balance in viewpoints; between the CIOs focus on today and ongoing business operations, and the CTOs view into tomorrow and the transformation of the business into an organization capable of meeting tomorrow’s challenges. As the primary IT business manager, a major focus of the CIO should also include the overarching management of the organizations portfolio management including ensuring the strategic alignment of technology with the strategy of the business, as well as overall responsibility for maintaining organizational standards with regard to best practice and technologies.

In contrast, the CTO should play a visionary role.   They should be looking for opportunities to transform the organization, be active in the management of the process of evaluating new technologies, and identifying ways to leverage technology to support the business. The CTO should maintain an active understanding of the most innovative solutions and best practices, and recommend implementation of those that will ensure the organization is prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow. As a function of the role the CTO plays in monitoring best practices and technology, the CTO should also play a role in examining current business processes and evaluating them for opportunities for improvement, making recommendations, and influencing ongoing operational support. As the business evaluates new opportunities, requirements, or as the new systems are contemplated, the CTO should have responsibility for the development and implementation of solution architecture ensuring it meets business goals and objectives as well as certifying the technical merit of the deployed solution. The CTO may also have overall responsibility for engineering and be responsible for the development of business facing solutions including the R&D portfolio and the development through initial deployment of all engineering systems prior to O&M.

In contrast to the CIO, the role of the CTO is as the name suggests technology focused.  The moniker could just as easily be Chief Transformation Officer because of the critical role this executive should play in ensuring the organization is able to meet the challenges of tomorrow. However, in order to truly deliver a high performing organization, it is critical that these two executives collaborate in many areas. Two of the most critical of these areas are the project and investment portfolio. It is within these two specific portfolios that the fortunes of the organization will largely depend and only by working to balance the needs of the organization, now and in the future, will they be able to deliver a high level of performance over time. As the lead architect for the organization, it is the CTOs responsibility to make compelling arguments for change and illustrate opportunities to re-engineer business processes, leverage data on behalf of the organization, or identify systems for replacement. The CIO must then work with the CTO to balance the forces these transformational efforts will present to the ongoing business of the organization including: decisions on build vs. buy, operational risk, security, continuity of operations, and maintenance of financial responsibility. The degree to which these two executives can work together and rely on each other to both deliver within their swim lane and collaborate across these areas of responsibility, the better the end result for the organization as a whole. As I have said before there is certainly no lack of responsibility or work available at the top-tier of the IT organization. High performing organizations will have executives that leverage each others skills and talents in order to ensure their own efforts are successful and the objectives of the organization as a whole are met.


[1] http://www.cio.com/article/31246/Whatever_Happened_to_the_CTO_Role_

[2] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

[3] http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/sanity-check-whats-the-difference-between-cio-and-cto/742

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Dealing with Executive Stress

Don’t let stress take over

Most people want to be promoted. They want to climb the ladder and rise within their profession. This can be exceedingly difficult with long hours and endless obstacles. There is no doubt that the road to success can be stressful at times. With that in mind, it can be critical to find ways to deal with the pressures of building towards your success without losing your mind. First and foremost, take care of your health. Don’t let late nights in the office drag you down into a fast food or sugar filled dietary disaster area. As someone who put on 40 pounds in his first ten years out of school, I can attest to the overwhelming temptation of donuts and coffee while trying to make my brain work late in the evening or too often early in the morning. I’m not going to argue that they won’t help you survive the battle but I can tell you they won’t help you win the war. Too many days of bad food, little sleep, and no exercise slowly robs you of the stamina and there begins a disastrous spiral that will at best leave you busting the seams of your older suits and at worst, fast tracks you to the cardio unit. I’ve learned the hard way to pace myself, get sleep and eat better. Even when things are going a mile a minute and it seems like stepping away for anything will result in losing headway to your goals, you have to force yourself to take time to make sure you are properly fueled, rested, and have gotten some fresh air.

 Another major stress or is the overbooked schedule or maze of responsibilities that stands in front of most executives everyday. I know for myself that until I was able to find a way to get my arms around the total responsibility that was mine, I had problems relaxing. The first time I read GettingThings Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen, it was life changing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have suddenly become the most organized person you’ll meet. There are too many people that are reading this that know me personally for me to get away with that. I will say that I’ve managed to remove the stress of the unknown from my day to day life. The simple act of getting all of my various tasks collected in one place and knowing that I have them recorded has been life changing and made sleeping at night a lot easier. Please read my post on Getting Things Done: Three key takeaways that will change your performance” for more detail, but essentially getting organized didn’t just help make me more effective. It made me healthier, reduced my daily stress by taking away the fear of the unknown, and increased my ability to prioritize and deal with my workload at work and at home.

The last two are ways to help you reduce your ongoing stress levels. These are usually the result of the accumulation of work and the overall pace of most executive environments. However, even if you adopt all of the above, watch every meal, become a fitness fanatic, and hire an executive assistant to help handle your daily affairs, there will still come times where point of stress become an issue. A long day full of difficult decisions, bad results, and seemingly endless unforeseen issues can bring an uncomfortable tightness to the chest and dull thumping in your forehead. When these times materialize I find that it helps to formally acknowledge the stress mentally. This may be as simple as leaning back in my chair for a minute and thinking specifically about the all of the issues I’m dealing with before moving on to the next task. From there I may look for an opportunity to take a 5 minute break to clear my head as well as some of my tasking. I will often try to proactively remove any items from my calendar that aren’t absolute must do’s. You will not perform better by soldiering through your mundane tasks in addition to the really important items. Doing more than you absolutely have to in times like these usually means you are doing the wrong things or putting undo attention on things that are of lower value.

How do you deal with stress? Are there tricks you’ve learned over time that have helped you to better manage your time or efforts? I’m always interested in hearing what other people have found works for them.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Why hiring a veteran is good for your organization

This guy is still a leader in a suit

Veterans day got started as Armstice day the end of World War I. This occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and was celebrated on in 1919 for the first time. However, the day didn’t really get going as “Veterans Day” until 1954 as a celebration for all veterans who have served this country.  As the son of a veteran with multiple family members serving and as a partner in a veteran owned company this day has special meaning. I have a special appreciation not only for the sacrifices these special men and women make, but also for what makes them so special. This blog is focused on performance and I wanted to take a bit of time today to talk to why hiring our former service men and women can be such a huge driver of performance within your organization.

I believe organizational performance is driven to large by the quality of the people of that organization. Talent management is becoming more critical every day as the pace of innovation and change place more emphasis on the ability of organizations to be agile and make better decisions in the face of change. Here are 5 reasons why you should be interested in bringing more veterans into your organization:

Leadership

I write often about leading people to higher levels of performance and helping mentor people to reach their fullest potential. This skill is specifically focused on for development within our services. They have spent years honing techniques for instilling leadership qualities into service men and women. One thing you can be assured in hiring a veteran is that they will be familiar with leadership qualities and in many cases will have had leadership experiences that go far beyond their years.

Teamwork

Veterans already know how to work on a team. They have been drilled in, worked in and in many cases risked their lives with teams. These are people who truly understand teamwork.

Sacrifice

Veterans understand sacrifice. From a willingness to give their life for their country to the simple main of spending so much time away from loved ones. Veterans have known and understand that greatness comes with a price.

Loyalty

Semper Fidelis may be the motto the motto of the United States Marine Corps but it has been a popular military slogan dating to the 16th century. I believe that many Veterans understand loyalty on a different level than their civilian counterparts because the stakes are simply so much different in the military context. Veterans can be counted on when the chips are down and your organization needs people to be loyal.

Commitment

One of the first things that drives how an individual will perform within an organization is that persons ability to commit to the organization. Veterans have proven this ability to commit on a level that most of us will never understand. They have shown a willingness to sacrifice most of the simple personal choices we hold take for granted in service of their country and for us. Where to live, what to wear and what to do are choices they forgo in order be a part of this exceptional team.

Conclusion

One thing that a veteran may not have is direct experience in your business. It’s hard to get experience in banking or other commercial specialties while you are serving your country. Remember though that the skills and traits above are what make domain expertise valuable. I believe that it is also easier to teach domain expertise (within reason) than it is to teach leadership skills. Do your organization a favor and seriously consider the veteran talent pool and the difference these men and women could make for your organization.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.