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Yes, tis the season.

Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa preparations and celebrations are in full swing. With those come the new year: 2020, a new year and a new decade. Time for everyone everywhere to make their predictions for the new year. Not to be left out, I will join the leagues of prognosticators and offer up a few of my own. 

Leadership

The leadership word for 2020 is vulnerability.

Leaders who are able to own their stories, show up as themselves, and be vulnerable will excel. Their followers will achieve more, give more of themselves, and be more engaged. Leaders, who want to grow, will focus on being more vulnerable and bring empathy and compassion to their roles. 

Information Technology Leadership 

The IT Leadership word for 2020 is verticalization.

Our businesses are demanding more from IT. We must bring business acumen and domain knowledge to solve the complex problems of business today. We must show up first as businesspersons and second as technologists.

For this reason, in 2020 transitioning from one vertical or industry to another will become more difficult, especially for directors, vice presidents, and CIOs. (Of course, we will also have to combine verticalization with the leadership word of vulnerability.)

The face of IT is changing!

Technology 

Technology’s rapid evolution will continue. OK, that is a ‘no-brainer’ prediction, but here is what I think that means for 2020:

We are going to see the confluence of three game-changing technologies: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Fifth Generation Wireless (5G). Our worlds will become more connected and more intelligent.

This will impact our lives at home and at work as “smart devices” become more prevalent. Leaders will have to have a vision for how these technologies will change their businesses, their lives, and the lives of their followers. 

There you have it…my 2020 predictions.

What are yours?

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 +.

No, this is not about some crime new drama (though people say I do look a lot like Mark Harmon…NOT!), this is about socialmicroscope-pictures6 organizations, mass collaboration, big data, the future of work, and some technology thrown in for good measure!

We recently announced a re-organization within Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. This re-organization included the creation of a new position, Senior Vice President of Corporate Connectivity. When I’m asked what this means, it would be easy to respond, “Well, it means that both Technology Solutions (Information Technology) and Marketing report to the same person.” But that would be a simplistic view of what is, really, a very progressive and complex organizational move.

I really need to work on my elevator speech! So, then, what does it mean to have both Marketing and IT report to the SVP of Corporate Connectivity? Why would we do this? What are we going to accomplish? What is Corporate Connectivity anyway?

Corporate Connectivity is the confluence (“Confluence” is a very carefully chosen word to describe this convergence. The science of fluid dynamics finds that when rivers come together at a confluence, the resulting power of the water downstream is not additive; rather, it’s compounded exponentially) of Networks, Communication and Collaboration, Information and Systems (ahem, N.C.I.S.; after all, I have been an IT guy for 30 years; everything can be boiled down to an acronym). Over the next several posts we will explore each of these streams and what impact they will have on our company.

Next up: N – Networks

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 a CIO, the question gets asked a LOT…What keeps you up at night? The answer may surprise you! The truth is other than some occasional snoring (sorry honey) and a trip or two to the loo (hey, we all get old sooner or later, embrace it) not much keeps me awake at night. Maybe I am naive, but I have the privilege of working with an awesome team of professionals and except for some occasional bumps our systems run very smoothly (knock on wood). We have a great disaster recovery and business continuity plan. Business is humming along with growth in most areas. However, with all that said and while they don’t keep me up at night there are things I worry about, here is my top five, in order of “fret level”.

My Staff

The one aspect about staffing that I wrestle with continually is staff size and the ratio of permanent staff versus contract staff. Before I approve a new position or backfill of an existing position, I really think long and hard about the current workloads, future workloads and the risks to those future workloads. Several times during my career I have been faced with the horrible task of looking my teammates, many of them friends, in the eye and telling them they no longer have a job (believe it or not, some of them more than once!). I can think of very few things that would be harder to hear and that would have a greater impact on a person than losing a job. Personally, there is nothing harder a manager has to do than to have that conversation.

The other aspect about my staff that I spend a lot of time thinking about is their development. Are they learning and growing? Are they satisfied with their job? Are they getting the opportunities to advance their career? We are a small department in comparison to many IT departments so opportunities to advance are limited, that concerns me. Turnover is costly both in hard dollars and in momentum to achieving our goals. I want to minimize turnover to the extent possible. However, if someone is ready for advancement and can take that next step in their careers and we don’t have an opportunity for them, I take satisfaction in knowing I have done my job and I will do whatever I can to help them take that step.

Being Value Add

It is the goal of most IT leaders I know to be a value add to their businesses. Too often IT is seen as a cost center, a necessary evil. Yes there are processes, tasks, meetings and planning that goes into “keeping the lights on”. I admit, I get frustrated when one of our basic services fails and we have to “waste” time fixing it. We have spent a lot of time putting processes and procedures into place to minimize that time. I try very hard to spend the majority of my time and value add planning, thinking and execution.

I was at a conference a few years ago when one of the panelists described two types of IT projects: A-C projects and C-F projects. No, he didn’t mean those kind of C-F projects (we have ALL been a part of those projects)! A C-F project is one in which, no matter how great of a job you do, the best grade you will receive is a C. No one is EVER going to call you up to say “Thanks for delivering my email today, I really appreciate it”. But, have an email outage and you will be getting “F’s” from all your colleagues. On the other hand, an A-C project is one that, if you hit it out of the park, you will get a report card filled with A’s. Those are the kind of projects where I want my team spending their time. That doesn’t mean we take our eye off the ball on those maintenance projects, but even there we are looking for value add: is there a better way? is there a more cost effective way? is there a disruptive change on the horizon in that area?

Being Open

As a former mainframe COBOL programmer, I can remember dissing Windows when it first came out, not to mention laughing at people using mice (Real men don’t use mice, right Scottie?). Why would you want to run your application on a toy, put it on a machine with MIPS! Color? We had color, green AND amber! Virtualization? Aren’t virtual servers just LPARs?

Seriously though, I do continually challenge my thinking, especially, when it is based in the status quo. Several months ago I received an email that sent me over the top. It was from an employee in one of our business divisions asking where on the network he could put a program he had written so others in his department could install it. WHAT? Someone outside of IT developed software and they want to use it? They want others to use it? Others have ALREADY used it? WHAT?

After sending a scathing email to his boss’ boss and another to the VP of the division and after talking with one of my Senior Directors (who by the way, was much calmer than I), I thought, “Why not?”. What if we had a process to vet the code? What if we had a community of employees that developed as a hobby? What if we put the proper agreements in place (gotta keep the lawyers happy, right?)? After all, using this small application reportedly improved productivity on a specific task by 437%. Whether it is being open to development outside of IT, or Open Source code, or BYOD, I want to continually challenge myself to be open and think outside the proverbial box.

Consumerization

Speaking of BYOD, the whole consumerization of IT is another area I spend hours thinking about. Its about “any time, any place, any device”, its about the “appification” of software, its about the employee wanting, no demanding, their technology at work function like their technology at home. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider this a bad thing. I think the consumerization of IT is very exciting. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

However, traditional IT has to change. We can no longer control everything (not that we ever could, but we thought so). Yes, I can block Facebook from the corporate network (not that I think we should, mind you), but that is not going to stop an employee from being on Facebook on their smart phone. Our traditional approach to application development will no longer work, we have to think beyond agility and think “there’s an app for that”.

I also think traditional business has to change. The whole concept of mass collaboration, brought about by socia media technology and the ever increasing bandwidth should change the way we look at almost every business and business process. THAT makes my head spin! If you haven’t read Don Tapscott’s “Wikinomics” and “Macrowikinomics” you should!

Keeping Up

When I think about keeping up I think about two areas. First, keeping up with technology. The whole tech cycle has shortened to breathtaking speed. No longer are 3, 4 or 5 year refresh cycles adequate. We have to rethink our approach to being good stewards of our IT assets and keeping up with the changes in access devices, software delivery and information access. It is a balancing act to be sure. I like the “any piece of glass” approach which almost makes the device agnostic, but can you really ever future proof your environment?

My focus on “keeping up” also applies more specifically to keeping up with our business units. We have four incredibly diverse and dynamic business units. They have minimal data integration and minimal process standardization. (Using the models Jeanne Ross defines in “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy” we would be on the border between Diversification and Coordination. This puts incredible pressure on a shared service like IT. At any given time, we may be opening a new retail store, opening a new school, expanding our maternity nursing program, or obtaining a new facilities management contract. If THAT doesn’t make your head spin, nothing will!

Wow, and I didn’t even touch on the explosion of data and how to turn it into actionable information, changing the way we measure success, new business ventures, corporate culture, organizational dynamics, corporate eco-systems, etc. etc. etc…maybe I WILL be up at night for reasons other than the trip to the loo!

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 +.