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CIO to CEO--Get Value from IT http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php en-US http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss 60 Happy New Year...and thoughts on performance planning http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/12/31/happy-new-year-and-thoughts-on-performan Fri, 31 Dec 2010 16:34:58 +0000 check99a IT Alignment Business Leadership Business Culture 86@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>Much as I suspect many of you have done for the past week, I have spent some time in the office closing out things for the end of the year. As I have cleaned out e-mails, thrown away old files, worked on year-end performance plans, and signed off on final purchases, I've had some good time to reflect on the last year. </p> <p>Performance planning is a great time for reflection. While annual planning is good and necessary, the real value of performance planning comes if you make the time to talk with your employees more frequently--say, every quarter. Things change during the course of a year (if they don't, then you may want to stir things up a bit at your organization). Adjusting the plans to fit the "new realities" is important--it helps everyone stay focused on the things that bring value to the business. </p> <p>Speaking of business value, it is critical to tie those performance plans back to corporate goals and objectives. This needs to happen at all levels of the organization and to be clearly linked. When you meet with employees, try to discuss the goals and objectives at a higher level so that everyone is working towards the same thing.</p> <p>As the new year begins, spend some time making plans--but be ready to change those plans as the environment changes. Flexibility is important.</p> <p>Happy New Year!!!</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/12/31/happy-new-year-and-thoughts-on-performan">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> Much as I suspect many of you have done for the past week, I have spent some time in the office closing out things for the end of the year. As I have cleaned out e-mails, thrown away old files, worked on year-end performance plans, and signed off on final purchases, I've had some good time to reflect on the last year.

Performance planning is a great time for reflection. While annual planning is good and necessary, the real value of performance planning comes if you make the time to talk with your employees more frequently--say, every quarter. Things change during the course of a year (if they don't, then you may want to stir things up a bit at your organization). Adjusting the plans to fit the "new realities" is important--it helps everyone stay focused on the things that bring value to the business.

Speaking of business value, it is critical to tie those performance plans back to corporate goals and objectives. This needs to happen at all levels of the organization and to be clearly linked. When you meet with employees, try to discuss the goals and objectives at a higher level so that everyone is working towards the same thing.

As the new year begins, spend some time making plans--but be ready to change those plans as the environment changes. Flexibility is important.

Happy New Year!!!

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Creating a vision http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/11/14/creating-a-vision Sun, 14 Nov 2010 20:54:11 +0000 check99a IT Leadership IT Alignment Business Leadership Business Culture 85@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>A <strong>Vision</strong>, according to Webster, is "a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination." Recently, I have participated in several visioning sessions that were designed to create end-goals for projects. Visions be developed at many levels--organizational, business unit, technical, operational. What is critical is that the visions be in alignment with each other.</p> <p>How do you ensure that everyone is working towards the same vision? <em>Early and frequent involvement is key</em>--make sure that you cross-pollinate each visioning group with people who have participated in the development of the other visions. Have those people be wanderers--going around, gently keeping people within the bounds of the bigger vision while also listening for things that may have been missed in earlier visions. </p> <p>Pictures are worth a thousand (or more) words. Try to draw a representation of your vision and share it with others. If done well, people will instantly "see" what you are trying to accomplish. </p> <p>That alone is worth the time investment.</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/11/14/creating-a-vision">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> A Vision, according to Webster, is "a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination." Recently, I have participated in several visioning sessions that were designed to create end-goals for projects. Visions be developed at many levels--organizational, business unit, technical, operational. What is critical is that the visions be in alignment with each other.

How do you ensure that everyone is working towards the same vision? Early and frequent involvement is key--make sure that you cross-pollinate each visioning group with people who have participated in the development of the other visions. Have those people be wanderers--going around, gently keeping people within the bounds of the bigger vision while also listening for things that may have been missed in earlier visions.

Pictures are worth a thousand (or more) words. Try to draw a representation of your vision and share it with others. If done well, people will instantly "see" what you are trying to accomplish.

That alone is worth the time investment.

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Words matter http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/10/12/words-matter Wed, 13 Oct 2010 03:50:19 +0000 check99a IT Leadership Business Leadership Business Culture 84@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>If someone said to you, "We need to talk about this new ERP system replacement", what would you immediately think about? What new servers you might need to buy? How many consultants you will need to hire to implement the system? Whether or not your network can handle the new data loads?</p> <p>These are all important questions--and quite appropriate given the statement.</p> <p>But what if that same person, talking about the same thing, said "We need to talk about this new business transformation project". Then what would you think about? How many people will see their job change? Whether or not your processes are robust? Are you following industry best practices?</p> <p>Almost any project today has a technology component to it. That does not make it a "technology project." It is important to think about, and talk about, these as "business projects". Using different words (as in the examples above) can help people to think differently. Describing your project appropriately may be the difference between success and failure.</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/10/12/words-matter">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> If someone said to you, "We need to talk about this new ERP system replacement", what would you immediately think about? What new servers you might need to buy? How many consultants you will need to hire to implement the system? Whether or not your network can handle the new data loads?

These are all important questions--and quite appropriate given the statement.

But what if that same person, talking about the same thing, said "We need to talk about this new business transformation project". Then what would you think about? How many people will see their job change? Whether or not your processes are robust? Are you following industry best practices?

Almost any project today has a technology component to it. That does not make it a "technology project." It is important to think about, and talk about, these as "business projects". Using different words (as in the examples above) can help people to think differently. Describing your project appropriately may be the difference between success and failure.

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Does standardization really work? It depends.... http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/09/29/does-standardization-really-work-it-depe Thu, 30 Sep 2010 02:56:07 +0000 check99a IT Leadership Business Leadership 83@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>"We need to standardize!" has been a rallying cry for IT (and other support areas) for many years. And there have been measurable improvements made by introducing standards (processes, hardware, software) in these areas. </p> <p>But is there such a thing as too much standardization? As with many things, it depends.</p> <p>There are often legitimate reasons to deviate from standards. The challenge is to define the parameters for these exceptions so you can act in a reasonable manner when a "non-standard" request comes along. Otherwise, standardization stops helping the business and starts hurting it.</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/09/29/does-standardization-really-work-it-depe">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> "We need to standardize!" has been a rallying cry for IT (and other support areas) for many years. And there have been measurable improvements made by introducing standards (processes, hardware, software) in these areas.

But is there such a thing as too much standardization? As with many things, it depends.

There are often legitimate reasons to deviate from standards. The challenge is to define the parameters for these exceptions so you can act in a reasonable manner when a "non-standard" request comes along. Otherwise, standardization stops helping the business and starts hurting it.

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Technology to the rescue! (or not) http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/09/07/technology-to-the-rescue-or-not Wed, 08 Sep 2010 03:43:35 +0000 check99a IT Leadership IT Alignment Business Leadership Business Culture 82@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>How many times have you heard an IT person say "Oh yes, we can buy a thingamajig that will fix that problem for you." And how many times has the thingamajig actually fixed the problem?</p> <p>If your answer is more than 0, then you've been fortunate to work in an organization where business forces likely came together to resolve a technology train wreck.</p> <p>The simple fact of the matter is that technology rarely fixes business problems. Technology is an enabler--able to make business processes work better, but not actually fix a problem by itself. (Truth-in-Writing Disclaimer--There are a few cases where technology might fix a business problem by itself, but that is usually because the problem is defined much too narrowly.)</p> <p>The CIO should be looking at business problems and working with the business units to see how technology can be part of the solution. It is a fine line sometimes--because many businesses want IT to help drive the business. And IT **can** do this--but it must be in the context of people and process changes. </p> <p>I would love to hear your stories about times when technology failed to fix a business problem--and what may have been done to fix the problem later. Please share and I'll post the best stories to this blog.</p> <p>-Don</p> <p>ps. You may have noticed that I have not been posting as often. I hope to get back on a weekly schedule in November, but in the meantime, postings will be somewhat sporadic. Thanks for your patience.</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/09/07/technology-to-the-rescue-or-not">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> How many times have you heard an IT person say "Oh yes, we can buy a thingamajig that will fix that problem for you." And how many times has the thingamajig actually fixed the problem?

If your answer is more than 0, then you've been fortunate to work in an organization where business forces likely came together to resolve a technology train wreck.

The simple fact of the matter is that technology rarely fixes business problems. Technology is an enabler--able to make business processes work better, but not actually fix a problem by itself. (Truth-in-Writing Disclaimer--There are a few cases where technology might fix a business problem by itself, but that is usually because the problem is defined much too narrowly.)

The CIO should be looking at business problems and working with the business units to see how technology can be part of the solution. It is a fine line sometimes--because many businesses want IT to help drive the business. And IT **can** do this--but it must be in the context of people and process changes.

I would love to hear your stories about times when technology failed to fix a business problem--and what may have been done to fix the problem later. Please share and I'll post the best stories to this blog.

-Don

ps. You may have noticed that I have not been posting as often. I hope to get back on a weekly schedule in November, but in the meantime, postings will be somewhat sporadic. Thanks for your patience.

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The Value of Mentors http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/08/19/the-value-of-mentors Fri, 20 Aug 2010 02:30:24 +0000 check99a Personal Development 81@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a guest panelist in a class titled "Solutions Oriented Leadership" taught by my colleague <a href="http://www.emergenceconsulting.net/site/Default.aspx">Cheri Baker</a>. Cheri asked me to join the panel with two other leaders. The class was small (about 8 people) which provided a great forum. The students were prepared with a list of 18 questions and we tackled about half of them. One of the questions revolved around "Who is your most important mentor and why?" and the answers were memorable.</p> <p>Each of the panelists talked about various people who have mentored them through the years, but one common theme emerged--a mentor is someone who not only sets a good example, but can also provide you with a different point of view that may not always be easy to hear. Mentors are people who can help you improve yourself--not by taking action for you, but rather by helping you understand the action you must take.</p> <p>Everyone should have mentors--they may be formal relationships (such as an executive coach), colleagues, or friends or family. Regardless of the relationship, a mentor must be someone you can be honest with and someone who can be honest with you.</p> <p>Take a moment to think about the mentors in your life and how they have helped you. And if you don't have a good network of mentors, consider adding a new mentor in the next week. You probably already know someone who would be a great fit!</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/08/19/the-value-of-mentors">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a guest panelist in a class titled "Solutions Oriented Leadership" taught by my colleague Cheri Baker. Cheri asked me to join the panel with two other leaders. The class was small (about 8 people) which provided a great forum. The students were prepared with a list of 18 questions and we tackled about half of them. One of the questions revolved around "Who is your most important mentor and why?" and the answers were memorable.

Each of the panelists talked about various people who have mentored them through the years, but one common theme emerged--a mentor is someone who not only sets a good example, but can also provide you with a different point of view that may not always be easy to hear. Mentors are people who can help you improve yourself--not by taking action for you, but rather by helping you understand the action you must take.

Everyone should have mentors--they may be formal relationships (such as an executive coach), colleagues, or friends or family. Regardless of the relationship, a mentor must be someone you can be honest with and someone who can be honest with you.

Take a moment to think about the mentors in your life and how they have helped you. And if you don't have a good network of mentors, consider adding a new mentor in the next week. You probably already know someone who would be a great fit!

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"Growing" people...or helping them grow http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/07/24/growing-people-or-helping-them-grow Sat, 24 Jul 2010 23:59:44 +0000 check99a IT Leadership Business Leadership Business Culture Personal Development 80@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>When your organization hires a new person, what do you look for? What are the things that are important to your company? One common attribute that many companies look for is clearly defined career growth in the individual. Depending on the type of position, this growth may be indicated by promotions or, for more skill-based or technical positions, growth in the knowledge of more complex systems, procesess, or techniques. Regardless of the type of growth, the important factor for many companies is to see growth.</p> <p>So what happens with your own employees? Do you provide growth opportunities within your company? Are you committing company resources to making learning opportunities available? How do you respond to employees who have "outgrown" the company (i.e. they are ready for the next level, but the company is not yet able to provide that growth, as in the case of someone being ready for a management position but a management position is not yet available)? Good companies understand that sometimes people grow faster than the organization and when the time comes for the employee to move on in order to continue growing, the company wishes them well and maintains connections with them (because these employees often end up coming back when an opportunity is available).</p> <p>Do your functional areas have line items in the budget for continuing training? Does training get "cut" first when times are tough? Are employees encouraged to learn new things and put them to use?</p> <p>Great companies grow great people--and retain many of them but accept that some will go on to other companies (where they will hopefully help develop more great people). Keep this in mind as you look at taking your company to the next level. People make the company and the company makes the people. It should be a win-win situation.</p> <p>NOTE: I will be taking a short (2-3 week) break from the blog, but will return in late August. Until then, feel free to check out some of the entries in the archive. --Don</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/07/24/growing-people-or-helping-them-grow">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> When your organization hires a new person, what do you look for? What are the things that are important to your company? One common attribute that many companies look for is clearly defined career growth in the individual. Depending on the type of position, this growth may be indicated by promotions or, for more skill-based or technical positions, growth in the knowledge of more complex systems, procesess, or techniques. Regardless of the type of growth, the important factor for many companies is to see growth.

So what happens with your own employees? Do you provide growth opportunities within your company? Are you committing company resources to making learning opportunities available? How do you respond to employees who have "outgrown" the company (i.e. they are ready for the next level, but the company is not yet able to provide that growth, as in the case of someone being ready for a management position but a management position is not yet available)? Good companies understand that sometimes people grow faster than the organization and when the time comes for the employee to move on in order to continue growing, the company wishes them well and maintains connections with them (because these employees often end up coming back when an opportunity is available).

Do your functional areas have line items in the budget for continuing training? Does training get "cut" first when times are tough? Are employees encouraged to learn new things and put them to use?

Great companies grow great people--and retain many of them but accept that some will go on to other companies (where they will hopefully help develop more great people). Keep this in mind as you look at taking your company to the next level. People make the company and the company makes the people. It should be a win-win situation.

NOTE: I will be taking a short (2-3 week) break from the blog, but will return in late August. Until then, feel free to check out some of the entries in the archive. --Don

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Actions speak louder than words http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/07/09/actions-speak-louder-than-words Sat, 10 Jul 2010 01:41:08 +0000 check99a IT Leadership Business Leadership Business Culture 79@http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/ <p>If an organization says that "IT is a strategic part of our business", what do you think about? Perhaps spending money on equipment and software? Maybe hiring very talented people? How about incorporating rigorous project evaluation criteria into the technology process?</p> <p>All of these actions (and more) must be in place to back up the words. Employees often look for the organizational leadership to "show" what they mean, rather than just "say" what they mean. It is essentially the old adage "Walk the Talk", but it is just as important today as a thousand years ago.</p> <p>Employees are smart--if they hear words but don't see actions, they know that the words mean nothing. Keep this in mind as you communicate your strategies. To take a bit of liberty with an old saying, "If you can't say something that is true, don't say anything at all."</p> <p>On a related note, if there are topics you would like me to discuss in these posts, please drop me a line and let me know. I am always open to suggestions on how to make this information relevant and useful.</p><div class="item_footer"><p><small><a href="http://02d913b.netsolhost.com/blog1/blog1.php/2010/07/09/actions-speak-louder-than-words">Original post</a> blogged on <a href="http://b2evolution.net/">b2evolution</a>.</small></p></div> If an organization says that "IT is a strategic part of our business", what do you think about? Perhaps spending money on equipment and software? Maybe hiring very talented people? How about incorporating rigorous project evaluation criteria into the technology process?

All of these actions (and more) must be in place to back up the words. Employees often look for the organizational leadership to "show" what they mean, rather than just "say" what they mean. It is essentially the old adage "Walk the Talk", but it is just as important today as a thousand years ago.

Employees are smart--if they hear words but don't see actions, they know that the words mean nothing. Keep this in mind as you communicate your strategies. To take a bit of liberty with an old saying, "If you can't say something that is true, don't say anything at all."

On a related note, if there are topics you would like me to discuss in these posts, please drop me a line and let me know. I am always open to suggestions on how to make this information relevant and useful.

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