The Cloud’s True Advantage is Bringing Focus to Solving Problems

Looking at the Loudoun Heights from the Maryland Heights near Harper's FerryI’ve been talking cloud for years. Most of it was focused on simply removing unnecessary complexity from the world of IT and content management. Why setup servers, create networks, manage databases, or any other tedious, redundant, and valueless tasks?

When I say valueless, I am referring to the fact that managing a database does not bring any differentiating value to your organization. The value comes from the analysis of that data or through the leveraging the data to deliver better, more efficient, products and services to your client-base.

That still isn’t the greatest benefit or the cloud. Too many project spend a lot of time focused on sizing, performance, system compatibilities, and other technical details. That time would be better spent on designing and delivering the ideal solution to the client.

By moving to the cloud, those discussions are taken off of the table. Those conversations don’t exist. The higher up the cloud stack you move (IaaS => PaaS => SaaS), the more conversations focus upon how to better meet the needs of the organization.

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Forget Bimodal IT

Nickel sitting on its edgeThere has been a LOT about bimodal IT being written and everyone is chiming in on how to manage bimodal teams. Bimodal IT is something Gartner keeps pushing, claiming 75% of IT departments will be operating bimodally in 2017 (pdf). They also claim that half of them will make a mess of it.

Why is that? It’s simple really.

Going bimodal is an unnatural way to run a team, group, or product.

If I’m an aging business in danger of being disrupted then sure, I’ll spin off a newer, more agile team to try and disrupt myself. Better to disrupt myself than to let it happen to me. Let the new team innovate and create new things while I try and get as much revenue as I can from the pre-disruption market.

Running a more rapid, innovative set of teams alongside separate teams that are essentially keeping the lights just doesn’t work long term in a healthy organization.

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The Delicate Balance of BYOD

Pope Benedict XVI using a tabletOne of the projects I recently worked on was preparing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for a financial institution. Having written the policy for AIIM, and other organizations over the years, it was a straightforward task. The real challenge was determining the right balance between convenience for employees and security for the organization.

Organizations are more and more willing to allow people to use their own devices, even though 30-35% of BYOD is invisible to an organization. The question is, “What are those organizations giving up?” What can organizations do so the restrictions placed on devices doesn’t make the employee feel like the device is no longer their personal device?

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The CIO, CTO, and Managing 21st Century Assets

There I was, strolling into Ted Friedman’s Gartner Symposium talk on Information Governance with low expectations. Ted is smart, but Information Governance is old territory for me. If it was anyone but Ted, I would have spent the time researching or writing.

So glad it was Ted. So glad I attended.

It wasn’t any particular insight that he expressed. As a whole, the talk covered familiar ground, balancing the needs of Information Governance with the practical needs of the business. What struck me was a comment how Information Governance seems to be simultaneously owned by both everyone and no one.

If Information is an asset, shouldn’t it be given equivalent priority? Money is managed by the Chief Financial Officer and people are managed by the Chief People Officer. What about information?


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An AIIM Keynote at a Kodak Alaris Conference

Today I ended up at the Kodak Alaris Global Directions 2013 Conference here in Washington, DC. It is good to see that Kodak’s implosion didn’t kill their imaging business. In addition to talking to people how Alfresco can add value to their Kodak deployment, I got to listen to John Mancini give the day two keynote, Intelligent Information Management – Transforming the Customer Experience.

I must say, it was a new experience watching John talk after having been his Chief Information Officer (CIO). Thankfully he has evolved his talk. When I first started at AIIM, his theme was that CIO’s didn’t “get it”. Now it focuses on the pressure that CIOs are under.

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Death of the CIO…No Way

I have been seeing rumors on the death of the Chief Information Officer for a long time now. After just serving a stint as a CIO at AIIM, I can tell you that the concept is silly.

This silliness recently came-up in a LinkedIn discussion and a blog post from an AIIM Board Member, Dan Antion. Dan went into several examples showing the need for a CIO which were dead-on.

I’m going to further illustrate the craziness of not having one.

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A Farewell to AIIM

Today is my last day at AIIM. After today I shall cease being their Chief Information Officer (CIO) and return to the ranks of the Professional Member. As I leave, I want to make sure that I share a few important things.

An Education

Boy, did I learn things. I learned a lot about:

  • The Association Business. It is a business and it has many unique aspects compared to other businesses with whom I have ever worked. Many of the unique aspects will help me look at problems in other organizations with a fresh viewpoint.
  • Association Management Systems (AMS). While hand-in-hand with the former, I learned that implementing an AMS as a system isn’t that different from any other business system. Translation: It takes planning, communication, and work. I also learned why they are important pieces of software and not simply a domain-specific CRM system.
  • Marketing. I thought I knew a reasonable amount about Marketing when I started at AIIM. I spent every day after that learning how much I didn’t know as I learned more and more.

That isn’t counting all the new technology tidbits and personal interaction skills I picked-up along the way. It was an intense time.

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A CIO’s Hierarchy of Needs

Early on in my role as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of AIIM, I read a Harvard Business Review Article by Ray Wang. In it, he outlined the Four Personas of the Next-Generation CIO. I felt a certain resonance with the article.

After having been a CIO for about 18 months now, I’ve decided that Ray only got it about half right. He beautifully covered the roles but he neglected the relationship between the roles.

The Four Roles

While you should read Ray’s article yourself, I thought I would list the four roles here for convenience.

  1. Chief “Infrastructure” Officers focus on cost reduction, and account for 65% to 70% of the overall IT budget. Most of this CIO persona’s projects prioritize keeping the lights on and managing legacy environments…
  2. Chief “Integration” Officers connect internal and external ecosystems. With 5% to 10% of the overall budget, this CEO persona must bring together a hodge-podge of business processes, data, systems, and connection points with legacy systems and newer cloud-based approaches…
  3. Chief “Intelligence” Officers empower the business with actionable insights. Representing between 10% and 15% of the overall budget, this CIO persona must improve business-user access to information. A key theme includes placing the right data to the right person at the right time on the right interface…
  4. Chief “Innovation” Officers identify disruptive technologies for pilot projects. Investing 5% to 10% of the overall budget, this CIO persona must drive innovation on a shoestring. Typically from business backgrounds, these leaders move fast, fail fast, and move on…

The article goes into more detail but it misses on the dependencies between the “roles”. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t focus on some roles until the others are mastered, or at least under control.

The Hierarchy of CIO Needs

These roles are really priorities for the CIO. Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they build upon each other and you cannot readily execute each subsequent level if the previous one isn’t sound. This isn’t to say that work won’t be done on multiple levels at any given time. It is just to say that each level must be predictable and under control before you can turn your focus to the next level.

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Career of an Information Professional, from Developer to CIO

imageI was having lunch with a colleague the other day. As I was describing to him the challenges I’m tackling as the Chief Information Officer over at AIIM, he asked me, “What prepared you for all that?” I gave a generic answer about how my last job prepared me but as I think back, I’m wrong.

Everything worked to prepare me.

You often heard it said that we are the accumulation of our experiences. If I had to distill what it was that prepared me for my current position, there are several things that did so over time.

While this is far from the only career path to CIO, this was my path. For many Information Professionals, it can be their path.

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The CIO’s Role in the World of Consumer IT

Hardly a week goes by when I don’t come across an article saying how the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is going to be diminished or that the IT budget is going to move to other departments.

imageThis just seems nuts. In a world where information is growing exponentially, the expert in helping an organization get value from information is going to be marginalized? As I see it, that is dead wrong.

The CIO of the future is going to have to be agile, knowledgeable, approachable, and working in step with every aspect of the business. From experience I can tell you that each business unit isn’t going to wait for their turn. This means that CIOs are going to actually have quality deputies to help out. This implies growth, not the opposite.

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