Amplify Your Value

 

OK, folks! Some MORE shameless self-promotion here!

My new book Amplify Your Value – Leading IT with Strategic Vision has been published! Both the e-book and paperback are available now!

If you would like to place a bulk order for 10 our more paperback copies (at a 20% discount) email me at Jeff.Ton@TonEnterprisesLLC.com!

Interested in receiving a free two-chapter preview? Click here to download! 

Amplify Your ValueOK, folks! Some shameless self-promotion here!

My new book Amplify Your Value – Leading IT with Strategic Vision will be published on August 13th! The Kindle e-book version is available now for pre-order on Amazon.com. The paperback and audio versions will be available on the 13th!

If you would like to place a bulk order for 10 our more paperback copies (at a 20% discount) email me at Jeff.Ton@TonEnterprisesLLC.com!

Interested in receiving a free two-chapter preview? Click here to download! 

When Tech and Politics Collide

When Tech and Politics Collide…and Why YOU Should Care

 

Let me get this out right now. This is not a political post. If you are an “R”, I am not going to try to move you left. If you are a “D”, I am not going to try to move you right. However, if you are a consumer of technology (and who isn’t these days), specifically the internet, there are some goings-on you should be aware of…and do something about. OK, so maybe this is a political post.

This year has seen technology take the center stage in a lot of ways. Today, I want to talk about three of them: net neutrality, browsing history, and weaponized propaganda. Admittedly, that last one has the potential to stir the hornet’s nest. Let’s look at each of them in-turn.

 

Net Neutrality

What is it?

In its most basic form “net neutrality” means the internet remains open. Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) cannot prioritize or assess different fees for traffic that flows through it’s network. This is part of the broader Title II repeal currently being proposed by the FCC.

The best way to explain “net neutrality” is to look at cable TV. How many times in the past several years have you seen one of the networks posting an ad that states “Programming on this channel may not be available on December 21, 2017. We are working hard to ensure your continued access.”

What are they really saying? The cable provider charges them a fee to carry their content. The cable provider wants to increase the fee. The network does not want to pay the fee. So, they are negotiating. In the meantime, if the channel goes dark, who misses out. You and me! Once they do negotiate, who pays? You and me!

Why you should care?

Take that to the internet. What if you could no longer view Netflix (or you had to pay a much higher price to view it)? What if your searches on Google were slowed down to an excruciating pace? What if YouTube was blocked? Don’t think it could happen? It can…and it will! Newer, smaller online companies will be shut out. One of the many benefits of an open internet is it levels the playing field. Small, mom and pop business of all kinds can and do compete on a national and international scale because of the internet.

What can you do?

Call Congress TODAY! Here is a great link for making that happen: Battle for the Net. Nervous about contacting Congress? They will even provide a script. Time is running out on this…the FCC is expected to release its proposal today or tomorrow and congress is expected to vote in early December.

 

Browsing History

What is it?

Earlier this year Congress voted to reverse legislation that forced ISPs to get your permission before selling the information they have gathered on you. What applications you use, what websites you visit, what purchases you make, what YouTube videos you watch, who do you send and receive emails with…all of it…up for sale to the highest bidder.

You are thinking so what, nothing is really private any more, besides Google and Facebook have been using my information for years. In my mind, here is the biggest difference: Google and Facebook are FREE! If you aren’t PAYING for the product, then you ARE the product. Last time I saw my ISP (internet) bill, it certainly isn’t free!

Why should you care?

You may be saying you still don’t care, everybody knows everything. Well, let’s forget for a minute that your data is your data. Nobody needs to know what size underwear you wear, nobody needs to know what illness you may have, nobody needs to know how many cat videos you watch. So, let’s forget privacy for a minute. Your data has VALUE!

Yes, allowing companies to gather and SELL information about you is like throwing dollar bills from your car as you drive down the street. Your data IS your data. If a company is going to make money off of your data, you should have a chance to share in the profits. Orange was one of the first companies I learned that was not only committed to protecting its customer’s data, but providing value to the consumer. By opting-in to allowing them to use your personal data you were given a reduction in your monthly bill.

What can you do?

Since the horse has already left the barn on this one, it’s too late to close the door. However, it is not too late to educate yourself. Read your ISPs privacy statement. Do they address your personal data and what they can do with it? Can they sell your data? Do they require an opt-in to do so? Contact them and share your concerns. Ask if they have considered providing value for the use of your data. And…put your money where your concern is…select your providers based on how they treat your data. Make it known, you know it’s your data and you know it has value.

You can also call your congressperson. Tell THEM, you know it’s your data and you know it has value.

 

Weaponized Propaganda

What is it?

This is not about who colluded with whom. This is not about which news is fake and which is not. This is not about the politics of this election or that election. This is about the technology and the “dark side” of how it can be used. This is about big data, “dark” posts, and bots.

Somewhat related to the Browsing History above, there is a tremendous amount of information available about you, some of it absolutely free for the taking, some of it with a price tag, but it is available just the same.  What if I told you there was a company who had developed a personality profile of YOU that consists of 5,000 data points and is being updated continuously with every like, share and tweet you make? Kind of reminds you of the lovesick stalker in the Police’s hit “Every Move You Make”, doesn’t it?

What if I told you there was an algorithm (computer programming code) written that could analyze those data points and predict your behavior better than your spouse? What if using that algorithm combined with Facebook “dark” posts and other social media outlets they could not only predict your behavior, but influence it?

What if I told you that new Facebook group you just joined with over 15,000 members had no human members other than you? All the content is generated by a computer aimed at understanding your likes and clicks and playing with your emotions.

Sound like science fiction? It’s not!

Why should you care?

Pavlov’s Dog comes to mind.

Even if you don’t believe you can be manipulated by autonomous bots creating and posting “fake news” in an effort study your clicks, it should concern you that organizations are gathering that much personal information about you and your family. It should concern you in this day and age of automated “everything” consensus data such as likes, shares, and clicks can be manipulated. It should concern you that it could impact everything from who wins America’s Got Talent to the value of the stocks in your 401K…not to mention elections {wink}!

What can you do?

Become educated. Learn and understand what’s possible. Before liking, sharing and retweeting, know and trust the source, and verify the facts. It is harder and it does take more time. Do your homework. Like the old adage of “never send an email you wouldn’t want your mother to read”, understand everything you say and do online is being watched by someone…and if they can use it to their advantage…they will.

 

When Tech and Politics Collide

Technology is all around us. Like most inventions it can be used for good…or not. Saying “I’m not technical” is like saying you don’t need to know about nutrition because you aren’t a dietitian. Be informed. Understand the pros and cons of the technology you use. Education is the key. And for goodness sake…be careful out there!  

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Now, before you jump to any conclusions and think I am breaking up with my wife, Carmen, or worse yet, that I have become a Neil Sedaka fan, let me assure you neither of those horrific things is true!

business, leadership, Breaking Up is Hard to DoOver the last several months, I have been struggling with the decision to leave a job that I love and to embark on a journey down a new stretch of river. Yes, I am leaving the role of CIO for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana to join Bluelock, an Indiana tech company that provides Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) infrastructure and services, as EVP of Product and Service Development. So, after 35 years of being in Corporate IT, the last 10 of which as CIO, I am switching sides of the desk and joining a firm whose product IS technology.

Now, mind you, I absolutely love Goodwill. I firmly believe in the mission, I love the vision and direction, and will continue to support the organization with my time, talents and treasures as best as I am able. However, as sad as I am to leave this organization, I am just as excited about joining my new organization and pushing off to paddle into the unknown (note the veiled Lewis and Clark reference).

How I came to this decision reminds me a lot of how Carmen and I came to the decision to marry. You see, we had been business colleagues and friends for years. As we each went through our divorces, dating, bad break ups and more dating, more break ups, we started to hang out together more and more. We celebrated the highs of new relationships, shared the laughs of life’s journey and held each other through the tears of another break up.

I can’t tell you how hard we laughed, when a well intentioned Maitre D’ seated us at “our most romantic table”. Oh, my god no! We are just friends! Even our friends got in on the act, saying, “You should date Carmen” or “You should date Jeff”. OH. MY. GOD. NO! We are just friends! We don’t want to ruin our friendship!

A few months later, while sitting on her couch, we looked at each other and asked, “So, when did we start dating?” The rest, as they say is history! A match made in heaven, a match with a foundation of friendship, a match of kindred souls.

I have been joking for a couple of years now that if I ever left Goodwill, I would join Bluelock. Maybe subconsciously I was only half joking. At any rate, early in January this year, the CEO of Bluelock and I met for breakfast. Honest, we were just friends! Actually, we were client/provider. We ended up having a great conversation about business, technology and transforming a startup to steady-state. The conversation went so well, we decided to meet again to continue the conversation.

As the months flew by, we didn’t quite look at each other and ask when we started dating, but the dialogue did shift to “what would it look like if…”, and eventually, to “how do we make this happen?”

As great as the opportunity sounded, I was conflicted. I had spent 25 years of my 35 year career aspiring to be a CIO, now I was going to walk away from it? Not to mention, I would be switching sides of the desk, moving to the dark side, becoming an evil vendor, would my friends and colleagues still return my calls? I had spent the last several years building a network of CIOs and IT leaders (Indy CIO Network), could I still lead that group effectively?

I reached out to my trusted advisers: my wife, my mentors, a couple members of the Indy CIO Network, my executive coach, and my dad. Each and every conversation reinforced what I was thinking and feeling, one by one they helped me answer all of the questions swirling around in my mind. Before my most recent coaching session, my coach (Dr. Dan Miller) came into my office and said, “come on, we’re going to do something different today.” With that, we walked to the corner overlooking the river.

“The city is not there, these sidewalks are not here. The traffic is gone. You are here among the trees looking out over the river. What are you thinking? What are you feeling?” After about 10 minutes, he said, “let’s head back and do our session.”

Before we crossed the street, I stopped and said, “Thank you. Thank you for making me stop and think. It is the first time I have stopped in months.”

Later, in our session, as I described the company and my new role. Dan stopped me and said, “You’ve already decided. Quit fretting and embrace it.”

Just as our friends were right many years ago, he could not have been more right about this.

So, as I wrap up my last few days at a great organization, with fantastic people, I look ahead to joining a great organization, with fantastic people. I am excited about the waters ahead!

 

Want to exchange ideas on Twitter (@jtonindy)?
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Read more of my musings on LinkedIn.
Interested in IT and it’s role in business? Check out my posts on Intel’s IT Peer Network.

 

It had been over 20 years since I had been on a hay ride. I daresay, that probably holds true for the majority of the participants at the recent #GWTS2014Summit…but let me start at the beginning. Leadership, Business, Management

A year ago, we put a twist in our annual budget and planning cycle. Many companies and departments conduct offsite planning “summits” and we had always done much the same. In 2012 we added something I had talked about doing for years. We invited some of our vendors to participate. To be invited, the vendor had to be a “strategic partner” (see “Three Keys to a Lasting Relationship“). So, after my management team had spent a day and a half reviewing business plans, trends in the industry, and trends in technology, our vendors arrived. We spent the remainder of the second day reviewing those plans with them, asking for feedback, and asking for general questions.  For the inaugural event, the feedback we received afterward was very positive, enough so to repeat in 2013.

Always looking to improve and listening to the feedback from the that first event, we made some changes to the format.

First of the changes…Twitter and the hashtags. As I talked about in a previous post, Twitter is my new way of taking notes at conferences (see I will never take notes again). I thought…”why not”. So, I created the hashtag and began tweeting first thing in the morning of day one. I encouraged my team to join in (though I must say NO ONE DID, ahem, are you listening?). I also sent a note to the entire department and our vendor partners suggesting they follow along with the activities through Twitter. Our day began in the Roosevelt Room at Fort Harrison State Park (ok, that is significant, but to find out why, you have to read a future post about my journey with Theodore Roosevelt).

Day one was focused on internal discussions with our management team. We reviewed business and infrastructure plans, however, we dedicated the meat of the day to open discussion, about the department, our company, and where we are versus where we want to be. Believe it or not we ran out of time!

As day one of discussions came to a close, it was time for another departure from the prior year. As I mentioned, last year the partners came at the end of day two. While the conversation was good, I believed it could have been better. So, this year, we had the partners join us for dinner at the end of day one (now before anyone reading this panics and thinks we bought dinner for 35 vendors, we did not, we asked that each vendor attending pay for their own meal. There, feel better?). The dinner was catered by the park at one of their shelter houses.

My team and I headed down to the shelter house while our guests began to arrive. Many had met the year before, or had been involved in joint meetings with us. However, there were some new faces to introduce to each other. This was one of the reasons for the shift to the end of day one…to get the introductions out of the way. Keep in mind, some of these vendors represented companies that were competitors of each other (not on our account mind you, but competitors in the market just the same). We had warned them all to put on their big boy and big girl pants for the event; it was after all about transparency and dialogue.

Gradually, the conversation began to shift from introductions into curiosity. Why HAD they been instructed to dress casually and wear outdoor shoes? Where we going to hike? Where we going to have a scavenger hunt? Maybe, a “vendor challenge”? (btw nice tennies, Steve!) Soon the sound of a large tractor could be heard in the distance. Since only two of knew what was happening, no one noticed. Moments later a large John Deere (Dave, picture our John Deere salute here!) tractor pulled into the parking lot next to the shelter house. It was pulling two large wagons filled with hay. Still, not many noticed.

I stood up on one the picnic tables to get everyone’s attention and announced, “Before dinner, we have a surprise for all of you! You may notice the two wagons behind me, everybody…follow me and pile in, we are going on a hayride”. At first the crowd didn’t move, as if they thought I was kidding. Me? Kid? I don’t think so…let’s go folks EVERYBODY IN!  Finally, 40+ of Indianapolis’ finest business people were piled in the two wagons and we headed out for a 45 minute tour of Fort Harrison State Park.

Business, Management, LeadershipAt first there was some awkward chit-chat and bemusement, I don’t think many of them could believe we were actually on a hay ride. The further along the pathways we traveled, the polite chit-chat gave way to laughter, spirited conversation and picture taking.  You could sit and watch the inner child come out. By the time, we were halfway done, there was debate about which wagon was the “cool, more fun wagon”. (Personally, I think the one I was in was the cool wagon!).

After the adventure, the dinner was served. I think the hay ride dominated the conversation at most of the tables.

The next morning as we gathered in the Roosevelt Room, the evenings activities had the exact effect we were looking to achieve. The greetings were boisterous, the conversation lively, and…the ice had been broken. We kicked off the meeting with a special guest and a dear friend of mine, Dr. Dan Miller of Historical Solutions (www.historicalsolutions.com). Dan provides leadership training, team building, and executive coaching, all in the context of exploring history. Those of you who know my passion for Lewis and Clark would think we were twins separated at birth. Dan provided us with an historical perspective of our surroundings, in the Roosevelt room of For Harrison, the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and Benjamin Harrison and an approach to planning, preparation and execution. There could not have been a more appropriate start to our day.

Next up, we reviewed the business and technology plans and highlighted our discussions of the day before with our partners. We then asked each partner to present their views on the trends they are seeing in their slice of the industry. I am sure it was tough, ask a bunch of business development people to get up in front of a room of 45 people and NOT SELL and only give them FIVE MINUTES, it had to be tough! (Ok, to be honest, next year, I am going to edit their slides beforehand and remove any of those “here is who we are, how much we sell, and who our customers are” slides!) Check out the Twitter hashtag (#GWTS2014Summit) to see some of the highlights from the round-robin presentations.

We spent the remainder of the morning in a group discussion of our projects, the trends, business issues, and our direction. In addition to some great thoughts, I believe there were several business connections made within the group and some ideas for additional areas of partnership with us were formulated.

Our partners left at the end of the morning discussion, we were then joined by our newly formed architecture team. We spent the next couple of hours diving into discussion topics specific to our technology architecture. By mid-afternoon, we were joined by the remainder of the team and we jumped into topics about process, team dynamics, and communication.

Overall, it was a very successful summit. We learned a a lot from each segment, solidified our roadmap, and potentially made some connections for business. We are already planning next year’s event and how to make it even better…hmmmmm, something like “Vendor Wipe Out” comes to mind….

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

As I write this, I am on a plane 35,000 feet above the earth flying from Denver to Indianapolis, returning from VMworld 2013 in San technology, businessFrancisco. Since my experience was somewhat different (I HOPE) from most of the 22,000 attendees, and possibly somewhat humorous in some sort of twisted way, I wanted to share my experience with you.

Let me back up a bit, first though. Several months ago, I was approached by one of our partners, Bluelock (thanks John, Diana and Alicia!) to submit an idea for a presentation based on conversations we have had about leveraging the hybrid cloud to elevate IT in an organization. I thought the idea was great and immediately agreed. Together, we developed a synopsis of the idea and submitted it to VMware for consideration and voting. Honestly, I didn’t think we would get voted in.

Word came several weeks later that we had, in fact, been selected, a very cool honor IMHO. Later that same week I received an email from Kurt Milne of VMware asking if I would be interested in also serving on a panel to discuss the evolving role of IT into a service broker. Again, I immediately agreed.

The weeks fly by as we work on our presentation and attend various VMworld speaker webinars. I am going to add here, if you are a conference planner, you should study the way VMware prepares its speakers. The support and guidance provided was top notch!

So fast forward now to late July, the last week in July, in fact. That week I had two employees from my team separate from the company, one of which was one of my direct reports. So now, I am pulling double duty. Friday that week we get the call that my terminally ill mother’s time has come, thus cutting my blog readership by a third! (OK, sorry for the poor attempt at humor, that is the way my family has always dealt with tragedy…making jokes, if you really want to know about my mom read “Mary Ellen Ton 1933 – 1980 – 2013: The Woman with Two Dashes”). The next two weeks were a blur, sometime during that time, we submitted our final version of the presentation. Needless to say, I was stressed out to the max!

We are now one week away from VMware. What better time to have your ten month old grandson visit from Kentucky. Now I don’t know about you, but it has been about 29 years since I changed a diaper, gave a baby a bath, and went without sleep. By the end of the week I was exhausted. (Ok I can hear my wife Carmen now, “YOU were exhausted? I was with him all day while you were at work!”…she makes a good point). Regardless, by the end of the week I was coming down with a sore throat and a sinus infection. I thought for awhile it was the wasp sting. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the wasp sting. I have not been stung by a flying insect in over 30 years. In the eight days leading up to Braxton’s visit, I was stung, not once, but twice. My hand swelled up to the size of a baseball mitt and my shoulder looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

technology, businessAnyway, I was sick. Started downing DayQuil and NyQuil. Monday comes and it is time to head to San Francisco. Has anyone reading this ever flown with a sinus infection? OMG, I thought my head would explode! By the time I got to Frisco, I was a mess. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now late in the evening. The restaurants at the hotel were packed (22,000 people eat a lot of food!), I walked around the neighborhood endlessly and couldn’t find a spot that wasn’t packed. I settled for a room service hamburger. Do NOT ask me what that burger cost!

Tuesday…ready to take on the world! Not! Still feeling like crap. I had an 8 AM conference call with the team back home (pulling double duty remember). At my wife’s suggestion, I called my family doctor to get a prescription called in to the local pharmacy. I then attended the General Session. It was excellent! VMware is doing some great things in the area of automation of many of the tasks of running a data center. Feeling a little bit energized by the session, I headed out for my 11 AM appointment with VMware Global Services. According to my GPS, just an 18 minute walk from my hotel.

Well, my GPS must walk faster than I do because I barely made it. The problem? I was at the WRONG Westin. Getting directions from a human, I took off (at this time I can hear Jeff Allen laughing and my wife is probably rolling her eyes) toward the RIGHT Westin. I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone to let them know I was late and lost. I thought about just bailing, but I really didn’t want to give that impression to VMware.

I arrived at the right place at the wrong time, 20 minutes late. The representatives from VMware were very gracious and we had a GREAT conversation. (Though I probably talked their ears off about Goodwill and what we are doing there!). They even order in lunch since we were now running late…or rather because I was running late. Many thanks to Marty Messer, Matt Stepanski, and Steve DiLiberto. I am looking forward to continuing our conversation and exploring ways to further our partnership. Funny story, later in the day, while speaking to my wife Carmen from my hotel room. I realized I was gazing out the window at the next building over…it was THE WESTIN…should have been a two minute walk, not a 40 minutes one!

From there I dashed over to the Solutions Exchange floor to check in with Bluelock. I was stunned by the scale, an unbelievable number of vendors and solution providers. I was also stunned by the noise. Ever walk into a casino with a sinus infection? THAT is what it sounded like. Excusing myself as quickly as was polite, I found a quiet place to have two more conference calls back home.

That evening was a Bluelock and Zerto sponsored event. I don’t care that I felt like death warmed over, I had to go! I was really glad I did. First of the bus ride was both beneficial and entertaining. I sat next to Christopher Clapp, the CEO of Bluelock. We had a great conversation about big data and analytics, and the potential for companies to leverage it to further their businesses. The entertaining part, was getting out of the parking lot. It took us 20 minutes because of the rush hour traffic. It got to be funny to watch people squeeze between the bus and the cars in front as the driver tried to nudge his way into the line of traffic. Finally, one of the guys from Zerto walked out in the middle of traffic and blocked lane by lane until we were finally free. It was kind of a bonding experience for all those on board.

The event itself was at the Calfornia Science Academy. If you are ever in Frisco, you have to go to this place. Very cool exhibits including a “biodome” rainforest (come on, admit it, you thought Pauley Shore was funny too!), and an earthquake simulator (I KNEW there was a reason I lived in Indiana!).

OK, If you are easily grossed out, skip this paragraph. At one point in the night, I was talking with John Qualls of Bluelock. All of a sudden he walked away, went to the drink table, and grabbed a napkin. He came back and handed to me and said, “you have something in your eye”. I thought he meant my glasses, so I took them off and started to clean them. He said, “no, your eye”…sure as shooting, the “stuff” that was clogging up my sinuses was now coming out of my eye! Jeeeeeeez could it get any worse. I think I spent the rest of the night looking out of only one eye!

The next day started with breakfast with the panelists. What a great bunch of guys! I was feeling a little out of place because the moderator and three of the four panelists were from VMware, including their CIO.  I love it when the moderator gets the panelists together beforehand. I find it really improves the quality of the discussion on the panel.  Heman Smith, Rich Pleasants, Kevin Lees and Paul Chapman, it was an honor to be on the panel with you all.  I enjoyed our conversation over breakfast.

After attending another great session on Blending Boundaries of Applications and Infrastructure, it was time to get ready for the breakout sessionpanel. Now, one of the lessons I have learned from public speaking is to always have a bottle of water on hand. There weren’t any in the room, so I went out to the hallway. No water there either. I did find warm Pepsi. Yeah right…warm Pepsi and then get up in front of a room full of people and try not to burp! (So I have two suggestions for WMworld 2014…one is: provide bottles of water for all the speakers. Two will come later in this diary).

The panel presentation went great (IMHO). There was great dialogue among the panelists and the audience about how DO you position IT to be a service broker, what are the challenges and what are the gotchas. I will explore that deeper in a future blog post. For now, I think my key take away was the concept of a “Shameback” as an alternative to a Chargeback. Publish a list of the top consumers and the costs associated with their consumption. We tend to call those folks “frequent flyers!”

Later that afternoon, it was time to circle up with John and rehearse our presentation for that afternoon. We decided to meet up in the “Hang Out” area set aside by VMware to “escape from the conference, take a break, relax and unwind.” Here is suggestion number two for VMware: have an alternative hang out space for those of us over 50! Remember the saying “If its too loud, you’re too old?” Or as Huey Lewis said to Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future”: “You’re music is just too darn loud”! After our run through, I took another tour of the Solutions Exchange floor. Very impressive array of vendors. I was able to make a lot of connections and came away with a plethora of new ideas.

It was now time for our presentation…the last one of the day before the HUGE WMworld Party…nothing like standing in the way of a bunch of techies and the party! As I was heading to the room, I ran into a couple of guys I used to work with in a previous job. It was great to spend a few minutes catching up. Of course Jarod Stone and Mike Harris you know I am going to call you out for NOT attending my session! Oh well, it was probably all stuff you had heard before! LOL.

The session went very well (again, IMHO). John and I talked about leveraging the hybrid cloud to move your IT department to being a value generator for you business. The audience was very engaged and asked a lot of great questions. Again, look for a blog post on this in the near future.

With the presentations out of the, I opted to head back to the hotel instead of attending the party. Crap, did I miss a great event. They had rented out the entire AT&T Park, where the Giants play their home games. There was a stage set up and a band. Not any no-named local band, they had hired Train to perform! I think I really disappointed Carmen by not going! It gets worse, and this is where I disappoint my son Brad. The batting cages were open and you could take some swings, one of the guys I spoke with later actually got to stand on home plate! Me? I was back in my hotel room, sound asleep by 8.

So, not your typical conference experience. I WAS able to dig through the fog in my head enough to know the content was fantastic, not only the handful of sessions I attended, but everyone I talked with could not say enough good things about the content. The networking opportunities were tremendous. I came away with several new connections within VMware and its vendors, b

Ice Cream Truck

ut also with several conference attendees. VMware knows how to put on a great convention.

My goal for 2014 will be to attend the conference again…and not be sick…and to be able experience the entire conference.

And a final thought, one of VMware’s competitors is so on the run…they had an ice cream truck branded with their familiar logo and drove around the convention center giving away free ice cream. Guess they thought IT professionals can be bought through ice cream…don’t they realize its beer and pizza?

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Last week I had the honor of sitting in on the Expository Writing class at one of our high schools (What? you didn’t know Goodwill operates high schools? Check out http://www.indianapolismet.org/ and http://www.excelcenter.org/. Yep, that’s us!). This class, taught by Eric Nentrup (Mr. Eric to the students), is either an English Core 40 requirement or general elective for Juniors and Seniors. I can tell you this…this was NOT your father’s writing class, nor was it anything like I experienced in high school!ipad

So, why was the CIO sitting in a high school writing class, anyway? Mr. Eric has always been a bit of a rogue, pushing the envelope of the digital boundaries of a typical corporation. To someone that has worked in Corporate IT for three and half decades, he tends to trigger my “command and control” reflexes. I realized several years ago, when that happens I need to seek to understand, because there is absolutely a learning moment for me around the corner.

What I witnessed was far more than a writing class. Was he teaching an approach for writing?  Absolutely, but he was also teaching current events, critical thinking, and something he calls “digital citizenship”.  Not only that but through his energy, enthusiasm and interactions, he was teaching them about relationships and the importance of bridging generations (at one point, one of the students even remarked, “I like how you talk to us. You talk to us like people, smart people.”).

We tend to think of this generation as very technologically advanced. Are they always connected and always on? Yes. Can they pick up most any device and figure out how to use it? Yes. Do they expect and demand immediate access to our connected world? Yes. But do they understand how to use technology to learn, grow and better their lives? Maybe not. That is where Mr. Eric (and others like him) come in. He teaches them responsible use of technology, how to leverage the connectivity of technology to understand the world around them and enhance their lives, and he teaches them respect for the technology (this goes as far as, how to leave the computer lab so the next class can start right up).

On the day I visited, the class was working on their thesis statements for their final paper, a six to eight page opinion paper on gun culture in the United States. Using a facilitated learning process, he guided them through a deep discussion on they topic and through the steps of taking their feelings and thoughts and developing a thesis statement.

From a pure technology perspective, the students sat down at the lab’s HP All-in-Ones and fired up their Chrome browsers. Once all the students were logged in to the Canvas Learning Management System, they followed the link Mr. Eric had placed in that day’s lesson plan, taking them to Mural.ly, where he had created the process map for them to follow, complete with research papers, websites, and news reports regarding gun violence, gun culture and the gun control debate. The students used Diigo.com to highlight and comment the citations that supported their views on the topic.

As they discussed the topic, one of the students asked how close in proximity was Sandy Hook to La Salle High School, sites of two recent episodes of school violence. Rather than answering the question, Mr. Eric suggested, “why don’t you jump on Google Maps and tells us?”. Within moments the class had the answer.

Mr. Eric brought up one of the student’s worksheets using Google Drive and Google Docs (using his iPad connected to a ceiling mounted Epson projector) so the class could edit the document collaboratively. Using her position statement, “I believe US citizens are not obsessed with guns, they are obsessed with the power that comes from guns.” (pretty insightful position coming from a teenager, wouldn’t you say?) The class worked together to develop the thesis for the paper, before being turned loose to develop their own positions and thesis. Even when Google Drive experienced a brief hiccup they didn’t miss a beat and learned a lesson in the Google Docs search capabilities.

I walked away from the class with an even deeper respect for the work our teachers do, day in and day out…the energy…the preparation…simply amazing. I met a dozen or so students, who treated their teacher with respect, were truly engaged in the topic, and who had some fascinating views on the topic. There were even a couple of students who had interest in IT as a career someday. I saw first hand how technology can be used to teach and, frankly, how it fades into the background so the students could focus on the message not the medium. I have always felt the responsibility that comes with a career in IT: the technology must work, and it must work well. Disruptions of services can have a significant impact on our partners. I walked away with a renewed sense of the awesomeness of our responsibilities. Bet you didn’t know you were teaching all THAT, Eric!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Part 5 of the series on Corporate Connectivity, other posts include: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: NetworksN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication (and Collaboration), N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information, and N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 4: Systems

So, are you asking yourself, “Why are we doing this?” or “What’s in it for me?” The answer will differ depending on your view of the organization.

If you are one of those we serve, you will benefit from a much more holistic approach to assisting you with the barriers and roadblocks you may face.

As a customer, shopper or donor, we will be able interact with you on a much more personal level, understanding what you want and need from your experience with us.

Our partners will have a much more cohesive view of our relationship with them.

We will be able to communicate to the central Indiana community the economic impact of our programs and services.

And last, but certainly not least, our employees will experience an organization in which information flows throughout the organization, where ideas for innovation can come from anybody, and where collaboration enables us to achieve more together than we ever could apart.

In their book, “The Social Organization,” authors Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald raise the questions: “What if you couldHorizon_Sun_rise__Wallpaper_jjwbl tap into the full talent, creativity, experience and passion of your employees, customers, and suppliers? What if you could minimize the constraints imposed by specialization and compartmentalization? What if you could retain or recapture some of the benefits, human and organizational, of that collaborative start-up without losing the glue that currently holds the organization together?”

This is the promise of N.C.I.S.: To leverage the work of Marketing, Technology Solutions and our cross functional teams — the Corporate Connectivity Committee and Goodwill Connections Team — to transform Goodwill Indy into a social organization; an organization that “strategically applies mass collaboration to address significant business challenges and opportunities” and further offers opportunities, provides services, and leverages its resources with those of others to improve the education, skills, employability and economic self-sufficiency of adults and the future employability of young people.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Part 5 of the series on Corporate Connectivity, other posts include: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: NetworksN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication (and Collaboration), and N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information

Information-Systems-and-Computer-Applications-CLEPThe underlying systems that tie all of this together are evolving at a lightning pace. Driven by the continuing consumerization and “appification” of IT, we have seen an explosion of technology, including smart phones and tablets. In 2012, for example, the number of smartphones in the market exceeds 1 billion, and it is estimated that by 2015, tablet sales will exceed that of traditional PCs.

This technology explosion has help to drive the skyrocketing growth of social media platforms. Facebook users have exceeded 1/7th of the world’s population, and during the 2012 presidential debates, people tweeted over 10.5 million times in a two-hour period.

Add to this the growth of software-as-a-service and other types of cloud-based applications, which are expected to triple in the next three years, and you have a pace of change that is mind-boggling. IT departments the world over are trying to keep up.

Goodwill Technology Solutions has embraced all of these changes with the motto of “any time, any place, any device.” Our internal server architecture is about 90% virtualized. Server virtualization was the first step in our strategy to become more agile and reduce the time spent “keeping the lights on.”

The next step was to move away from dictating which smartphone an employee must use to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach that enables our employees to pick the smartphone that works best for them. We were also one of the first companies to embrace tablet technology, using iPads throughout the organization, including issuing one to each of our IT Service Technicians to enable them to stay on top of their support tickets.

We took a significant step in the “cloud” by migrating from Microsoft Exchange and Outloook to Google Apps for email, contacts and calendaring. Most recently, we launched cloud-based HRIS (Human Resources Information System) and payroll systems using Workday as Goodwill’s Employee Management System.

Next Up: Series Finale: The Results

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Fourth in a series of posts exploring corporate connectivity: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: Networks, N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication and Collaboration

“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

business, technology, marketing, connectivity, collaborationThe same could be said for data. “Data, data everywhere, but no information to use.”  In 2012, approximately 2.5 quintillion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data were created every day! The industry has tagged this with the name “Big Data.” Making sense of all that big data and turning it into actionable information has given rise to a new type of position in many companies, that of “data scientist.”

For decades, companies have been trying to turn data into information through technologies such as data warehouses and business intelligence applications. Most of this effort was focused on their own internal data. However, with the growth of internet technologies, mobile technologies and the computerization of just about everything, more of the focus is shifting to data that is not only created outside the corporation, it’s stored outside the company, too.

Transforming this data and managing this information is vital to effectively running a business today. These changes are having a significant impact on traditional marketing. In an interview with Bruce Rogers of Forbes magazine, Rory Findlay of Egon Zehnder’s Global Consumer Products Practice stated, “…the game has been transformed. Consumers used to be anonymous. Businesses marketed to large demographic groups, differentiated by lifestyle attributes. But increasingly, marketing now targets individual consumers whose behaviors and preferences can be known and predicted with remarkably nuanced precision. At the same time, Digital Marketing is vastly increasing the number of consumer touch points.” [1]

Facebook is one of the top dogs of harvesting online data to customize the user experience. Ads are tailored to you from the pages you visit, the posts you “Like” and other online habits. As an example, a Facebook user I know remarked, “When I log on, the ads that appear on the side bar are for Chicago Bulls, IU and Michigan Wolverines products. I get ads for Jay-Z and Eminem concerts.” (Thanks, B!)

The data at Goodwill Indy is approaching 15 terabytes. It’s not a lot in comparison to some companies, but it’s equivalent to about 3,750,000 song downloads, to put it in consumer terms.

In 2012, we processed more than 5,000,000 sales transactions and another 1,900,000 donation transactions. Until the launch of our loyalty card program, Goodwill Rewards, we knew little about our shoppers and donors except in aggregate or anecdotally. Today, with almost 300,000 members, we know much more about who is shopping and donating, where are they shopping and donating, and what are they are buying and donating. We can use this information to more effectively manage our retail operations. More importantly, however, we can combine this information with social media and other digital marketing to connect with and engage with our shoppers and donors. In short, we can improve the customer experience.


[1] “Seeking CMOs: Must Know Big Data and Digital Marketing,” Forbes.Com, January 15, 2013.

Next Up: Systems

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.